Let’s be honest. Everyone does it. At one time or another, you’ve not really listened when you should have. We should all make every attempt to hear and listen to those around us. If you find that your listening skills need some tuning, implementing just one of these tips would be a step in the right direction.
Are you still listening???
8 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills
- Shut your mouth! It sounds pretty straight forward – stop talking so much. Yes, it’s difficult to do. For what it’s worth, most people prefer to talk – especially about themselves – and especially when they’re nervous. Stifle it. Internalize the speaker’s words. Understand them. Be engrossed. Fight the urge to speak, even if you have an opinion, suggestion, or answer. Wait until asked.
- Remove distractions. Give the speaker your undivided attention. Whether it be a co-worker, neighbor, or child, being distracted, or worse, giving in to those distractions is rude. If distractions are unavoidable, at least make amends to the extent that you can control – hang up the phone, turn off the TV, or close the door.
- Open your mind. Again, though you may have an opinion – and you have every right to do so – keep it to yourself, unless specifically asked. If you’re not asked, simply let it slide. If you are asked, be explicit that your response is yours and that you’re not imposing your beliefs, “I feel that…”
- Appreciate the speaker’s perspective. Walk in the speaker’s shoes, well, figuratively, to better understand where they’re coming from. Find themes that you can agree with.
- Wait your turn. Do not cut someone off just to get in your two cents. At the same time, don’t create mental responses to a list of points during the conversation. You’ll spend more time trying to compile those notes than actually listening. When given the opportunity, ask clarifying questions.
- Listen actively. Articulate to the speaker – paraphrase – what you’ve heard in order to get confirmation that you truly understand the speaker’s message.
- “See” the big picture. When you are listening to a speaker, take in the speaker’s emotions, tone, gestures, the speed that they’re talking, and other non-verbal queues such as crossed arms or legs, eye contact (or lack thereof), and smile (again, or lack thereof). All these paint a much more accurate impression as compared to the words alone. You may even acknowledge these emotions, “You seem to feel angry…”
- Last, and certainly not least, make a commitment to improve your listening skills. Unless you acknowledge a deficiency and commit to improvement, nothing will change. Listening is not a skill we’re born with. We need to practice and perfect good listening skills. If nothing changes, nothing changes.
Listening is a gift. By improving your listening skills, you will be a better friend, colleague, and leader. People will naturally appreciate you. These tips will help, but it may take time. The rewards, however, will be worth it.
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