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Nov 1, 2000 12:00 AM

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Effective listening is an ignored skill, according to the authors of "Leadership: A Quick and Easy Guide" (Graphic Arts Publishing). "Most people think of listening as merely a passive activity; someone else is doing the talking," they observe. "Few of us think of listening as a skill and even fewer have had any training in it."

Here are six suggestions for improving your listening skills:

1. Provide clues that you are actively involved: take notes, ask a relevant question, etc.

2. Concentrate - try to empathize with the speaker.

3. Refrain from formulating an immediate response during your listening. Rather, concentrate on obtaining an accurate understanding of the speaker's words. Then allow the give-and-take to occur.

4. If possible, prepare beforehand for listening. Think of possible outcomes and results and of needed information. Consider possible negative outcomes.

5. Be prepared to accept revisions. Be aware of the common error of spending 90 seconds in expressing an opinion and 900 seconds in blindly defending it.

6. Be sure the physical environment is conducive to listening; check for good ventilation, a comfortable temperature, possible distractions, adequate lighting, and background noise.