Friday, May 1, 2015

8 Signs You Are a Poor Listener

Are you a good listener? Few of us are because of all the interruptions, distractions, and overall noise that we are inundated with on a daily basis.
In a recent article on 8 Reasons You're a Worse Listener Than You Think (And How to Get Better), author and speaker Minda Zetlin calls out several reasons people fail to listen effectively—which can act as key indicators to help you identify how well you listen.
Without further ado, Zetlin's signs of a poor listener:
1. Planning your response while the other person is talking.
This is just plain human nature. We don't want to appear dumb, so we try to be ready with an intelligent response the moment other people finish what they have to say. The problem is that, as we now know, the human brain can't really multitask. So while your brain is thinking up your answer, it's letting whatever's being said slip by.

The best way to fight this tendency is to slow yourself down, Hess says. Ideally, do this before the conversation even starts. "Put yourself in a listening frame of mind with calmed emotions and a quiet ego," he advises. "Take some deep breaths and say to yourself: 'Listening is not about me. Don't rush to conclusions. Seek to understand.'"
The best way to improve your listening is to be in the moment with the other speakerlet go of all plans for what you'll say next, look the speaker in the eye, and focus completely on what he or she is saying. Even if there's a moment's silence while you compose your thoughts, the other speaker will notice and appreciate your focus, and it will make your whole interaction more effective.

2. Assuming you know what the other person is about to say.
Finishing another person's sentence out loud is rude and we usually don't do it. But most of us are guilty of finishing that sentence inside our heads. We think, "Oh yeah, I've heard that many times, I know what you're about to say."

And we may be right. People are repetitive by nature so there's a good chance we do know what's about to be said. But there are subtle differences and underlying messages that we miss when we mentally check out on something we think we already know. Also, we may be wrong. The other speaker may be about to say something completely new that we will miss out on because we've stopped listening.
The best way to fight this tendency, Hess says, is to be aware of your own assumptions. Test those assumptions by asking questions that will dig deeper into the question. Your questions may make the speaker stop and think more deeply as well.
3. Interrupting.
Most of us have enough common courtesy not to start speaking when someone else is in the middle of a sentence. But interruptions can also be non-verbal. Hess recalls that in school, he would wave his hand vigorously while his teacher was still talking. He would do this for so long that eventually she would interrupt herself and call on him. That way, he could be the first to give the right answer, much like someone hitting the button first on Jeopardy! He wanted everyone to know how smart he was.

Hess contends that when we interrupt others, seeming smart is usually the motivation. "Either we're interrupting to correct the speaker or to get to a key point before the speaker does," he says. He adds that it was an effort for him to curb his own interrupting habit. "I learned that others would not think less of me if I listened until they were through talking and reflected on what they said before responding." On the contrary, other people felt they had his respect. "That made my meetings more productive and my relationships stronger," he says.

4. Letting your mind wander to something that seems more important.
In today's busy world, it's highly tempting to zone out and focus on more urgent matters if someone isn't holding your attention. And if you've never stolen a sneak peek at your email while someone was droning on, well, you're made of sterner stuff than I am. But this is a bad, bad habit. You're in the conversation for a reason which means you should be focused on the conversation so that whatever you want to accomplish actually happens. And if a conversation truly is a waste of your time, then you should be looking for a polite way to get out of it.

5. Interpreting the speaker's message to match your own views.
Unfortunately, this too is human nature. Faced with the massive jumble of information that comes at us every day, we pay attention to that which supports our existing beliefs and tend to ignore the rest. The fragmented nature of our public conversation just makes things worse: If you're a liberal who watches MSNBC or a conservative who watches Fox, you're never in danger of having your beliefs challenged.

Don't go into your conversations this way. Try to keep an open mind about everything you hear so that you can truly absorb what the other person is telling you, rather than seeing it through the lens of your existing assumptions. Don't worryif you temporarily set aside your understanding and expertise about the subject, you can pick them up again when you need them to analyze what you've heard or render your own opinion.

6. Sharing your own experience rather than asking about the speaker's experience.
It's a common impulse—someone tells you about a car accident and your first instinct is to describe one of your own. And while there's certainly value in letting people know they aren't alone, or that you understand what they're going through, the truth is that every experience is different. The other person will want to know that you've heard and understood, and care about their experience.

"This is another situation where asking questions will serve you much better than talking over someone or trying to interject your way into the conversation," Hess says. So make sure you ask more than you tell.

7. Offering advice before being asked.
Everyone has done this at one time or another but it is usually a bad idea. "Maybe you think that a colleague or friend is sharing a story with you precisely because they want your advice," says Hess. "Well, that might be the case, but chances are what they need more is for someone to hear them out, to truly listen to what they have to say. Never, ever offer advice before being asked."

8. Getting defensive about negative feedback.
This is a particularly tough habit to break. When faced with negative comments about ourselves or our work, our instinctive response is to deny, defend, or deflect in order to protect our egos, Hess says. Overcoming that automatic response can be a powerful tool, though. That's because genuinely thoughtful negative feedback is a rare commodity. "Rather than getting the kind of specific, constructive feedback that can help us improve our skills, most of us will receive guarded or politically correct feedback that is fairly useless in practice," he says. "Thoughtful and constructive feedback is a valuable thing."

So don't waste it when you get it. Take in the feedback with as much of an open mind as you can. Give yourself some time to think about it and evaluate whether it's helpful. Remember, it's ultimately up to you whether to act on feedback or not. But if you can give it serious consideration and look for ways it can help you do better, you'll be ahead of the game.
If any of the above statements sounded like something you would do in conversation, don't worry! Atomic Training can help with our online training courses on Effective Listening and Increasing Your Listening Power, both of which are a part of our Career Skills training.

Don't have access? Request more information online.

Friday, March 20, 2015

5 Simple Things to Make Your Week More Productive

Do you ever feel like there simply aren't enough hours in the day—let alone the week? 
The trick to making your week more productive, according to a recent article on Five Simple Things Super Productive People Do on Monday by best-selling author Kevin Daum, is to use Monday to your advantage and to see it as "an exciting beginning".
Here's his insights on what it is that productive people do differently:
1. They start with a positive attitude. 
So much time and energy is used up by a bad mood. Super productive people don't like to waste any energy and they certainly don't want the week to lag from a bad start. They focus their mind on joyful productivity from the moment their feet hit the ground in the morning. They revel in the excitement of what they can accomplish. Instead of lamenting going to work, focus on where you truly want to be and what will take you forward.

2. They dedicate time for organization.
Starting Monday firefighting will put you behind schedule for the entire week. Super productive people understand that organization doesn't happen magically on its own. Time is required to think things through and create process. Otherwise, a haphazard approach will create chaos and eat the very time you thought you might save. Block out an hour first thing Monday morning and get your ducks in a row.

3. They prioritize their objectives.
If you don't have clear objectives on Monday, you will find yourself with a short week to get things done. Super productive people assess the entire week so they can manage their resources accordingly. That gives them the ability to meter out the week and adjust as necessary. Make your lists and calendar your time. It will free your mind for the week.

4. They anticipate obstacles.
Obstacles are an inevitable part of every project and work environment. Monday is a great time to focus on the obstacles of the week. Super productive people incorporate room for unknown speed bumps into their plan, so that when the inevitable happens, they don't get tripped up.

5. They line up their allies.
People are busy and you can't assume that they will use Monday to set up their own week. Super productive people take into account the human resources required and schedule appointments right away so they don't have to chase people later in the week. A colleague asked early for help is much more likely to respond and act than someone who is jarred into action by a surprise S.O.S.

Looking for more ideas on being more productive? Check out Atomic Learning's online training on Successful Time Management and Effective Meetings, just a few of the topics from the career skills training collection.
Don't have access to Atomic Learning? Request more information.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Windows 10: The Next Chapter - Preview

Microsoft has been busy! In this video, Microsoft® executives share new information about the upcoming Windows 10. It is said to be, "...the first step to an era of more personal computing." Not only get a glance at the new interface, but see how they are taking productivity and gaming to the next level. You will also get a look at the latest technology including the HoloLens and Surface Hub.
Be on the lookout for an exclusive look at Windows 10 from Atomic Training in the coming weeks!

For more information visit

Friday, October 24, 2014

Making Time to Learn: Computer Learning Month
In the everyday hustle and bustle of life, it's easy to put off your own professional development...

October marks Computer Learning Month, an annual event focused on promoting responsible computing and digital citizenship, serves as a simple reminder to set aside time dedicated to learning something new.
Since the month is already quickly drawing to a close, we've complied a short list of some of our favorite online resources to help you stop procrastinating and start learning.
  • Computer Literacy Basics Mac | PC
    Learn the basics about using your computer with topics ranging from double clicking with your mouse to setting up an email account, and even how to transfer photos from your camera to your hard drive.
  • Effective Listening Training
    This dynamic online training series explores listening vs. hearing, the listening process, and types and styles of listening, responding, questioning, and more that can be valuable in all areas of your life.
  • What's New in iOS 8
    This online training series will show you some of the new features in iOS 8, including Interactive Notifications, QuickType, Family Sharing, iCloud® Drive, Spotlight®, and more!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Internet Safety Resource for Cyber Security Month

The start of October marks National Cyber Security Awareness Month, an awareness effort focused on ensuring everyone has the resources they need to stay safe and secure online. Founded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance, the event is in its 11th year, and has continued to grow.

In an effort to help encourage businesses and individuals to stay safe online, Atomic Training has gathered some of our top resources on the topic, including:

Looking for additional resources? includes a variety of free resources focused on keeping businesses safe, including an Online Safety Quiz.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Takeaways from Adobe's Everything is New Again Event

Guest blog post by Bobby Willis, Post-Production eLearning Manager & Sarah Holder, Instructional Designer at Atomic Training
Adobe Creative Cloud logo
During yesterday's keynote address of today's Everything New is New Again event on the Adobe® Creative Cloud, numerous updates and additions were shared. Members of our eLearning team listened in, and are excited to share their takeaways on some of the many cool new features now available to Creative Cloud users.

Adobe Creative Cloud has re-imagined the creative process and made digital workflows even more streamlined with nearly 1,000 updates to the popular application for video, design, web, mobile, and beyond.

You can view the keynote online, or simply check out our highlights below for a quick summary. 

  • Premiere Pro
    Overall productivity has been improved and workflow pain points have been removed. You can perform color grading/correction in Speed Grade, then jump back to Premier with "Direct Link"—no rendering required!

    You can now also easily match a frame's tones, colors, etc. with "Match Look," apply masking features on effects, and access new and improved Ultra HD (4K, 5K, and 6K) native playback and workflow in Premiere Pro.
  • Photoshop
    The new and improved Photoshop Creative Cloud includes a variety of timesaving tools, including a font locate function with Creative Cloud type kit—no more missing fonts warning! Another handy update are real time measurements on smart guides to simplify placement of objects, text and graphics.

    Additional updates include the "Focus Area" selection feature that recognizes the focal point of an image and places text behind the image rather than adding layers and having to cut areas out, spin and path blur options to create realistic movement, and tools to make it easier to manipulate 3D images/objects, update a 3D model in 2D workspace, and create 3D prints.
  • Illustrator
    The popular Illustrator program included some simple (but powerful) updates, including new and improved pencil and pen tools to create better lines and strokes, and live updates between a team of designers with improved smart objects that update saved changes to an Illustrator file within Photoshop.
  • Lightroom
    It is now easier than ever to create collections in both desktop and mobile environments. Additional enhancements include a keyboard shortcut to Photoshop from Lightroom, perspective warp to manipulate 2D photo in a 3D space, and full-fidelity smart previews.
  • Lightroom for iPad
    You can now easily edit photos on your iPad in Lightroom—such as holding down three fingers to view before and after image edits—and sync images to the creative cloud and desktop.
  • Lightroom for iPhone
    Quickly share photos from your iPhone to social media sites.
Web Design
  • Adobe Muse
    The new and improved Adobe Muse offers greater design freedom, including tablet and phone views to see how your web design will appear on different devices, in-browser editing to streamline updates, and simplified options for adding animation of objects/images.
  • Adobe Sketch
    This new mobile sketch pad app features a variety of handing features, including social media connectivity.
  • Adobe Line
    For more technical drawings, Line offers precision drafting options to create complex, and beautiful, designs.
  • Adobe Ink and Slide
    Optional Pen and Ruler tools now available for working in both Sketch and Line apps.
  • Photoshop Mix
    New tools to edit photos for social media sharing—complete with a shortcut link to Photoshop desktop app.
Another addition that didn't fit into any one category was the Creative Cloud Market, which is designed to offer access to an ever-growing library of images, illustrations, icons and graphics—all royalty free!

Can't wait to get your hands on these updates? We can't either! Watch for training on many of these exciting new features from Atomic Training in the upcoming months.