Listening is one of the most important skills that you can have in your professional life, but it’s also one of the hardest to master. If you’re not careful, listening can be an especially difficult skill to improve because there are so many habits that people form over time without realizing they’re doing them.
Being a good listener is an invaluable skill that everyone should have. As someone who wants to be a better listener, you can start by practicing active listening. Active listening means paying attention and being aware of what the other person is saying without thinking about your response or how to take control of the conversation.
People are more likely to feel heard when they know their message has been received accurately, so practice repeating back what you think you heard them say before responding further. If there’s time, ask questions for clarity or elaboration on certain topics as well because getting clarification will help ensure that both parties are on the same page with each discussion moving forward.
People frequently feel unheard and unacknowledged when they aren’t able to receive attention through active listening. That’s why it’s vital for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that you need some improvement in your listening abilities after reading this article and that you decide to work on it. What are some of the things you can do to make it happen? How can you be a better listener?
Give your attention.
The first step toward improved listening is to give your complete attention. To demonstrate your readiness to talk, use positive body language. Get comfortable and face the other person directly to focus on the discussion.
Make eye contact when you begin a conversation with someone and maintain it throughout the exchange. You don’t need to maintain complete eye contact, but you should look at the speaker frequently. Keeping consistent eye contact helps you focus on what the speaker is saying.
A good listener is engaged. They’re not checking their watches, texting friends, or planning their dinner menus. They’re engaged and focused on what the other person has to say. This is known as active listening.
Active listening, according to Skills, Requires “full attention to the speaker and an active ear. It is also necessary for the person who is giving full attention to the speaker to be ‘seen’ as doing so—otherwise, the speaker may believe what they are talking about isn’t worth discussing with the listener.”
Don’t be tempted to interrupt when you should be listening.
Would you want to be in the middle of a sentence and then have the other person put up a finger or open their mouth to interrupt you? It’s rude and makes people uncomfortable. You’d most likely want to speed through what you were saying in order to get it done.
Interrupting is considered a sign of disrespect. It essentially implies that what I have to say is more essential than what you’re saying. The speaker will feel irritated, rushed, and unimportant when you interrupt him or her.
When you’re listening, one of the most beneficial things you can do is let the other person talk without interruption. Keep in mind that if you don’t feel comfortable offering input or answering questions, you will have plenty of time to speak later.
If you can’t hear your conversation partner properly, ask them to speak up or move closer to you. If the noise from the outside prevents you from hearing clearly, turn off any external noises so you don’t have to ask the other person to repeat things.
Remember that a short period of silence may give both of you the opportunity to reflect on what you’ve discussed before moving on to new topics.
Asking qualifying questions to show you’re listening and genuinely interested is another good method to enhance your listening abilities. This may encourage the other person to continue talking, allowing you additional chances to pay attention.
Wait for the speaker to finish their portion of the discussion naturally. When it’s your turn to speak, concentrate on questions rather than answers. Request further information, especially if a situation’s ramifications are unclear to you.
Rather than guessing your friend’s feelings, ask them to describe how an event affected them. Remember that being interested might help you get more information and give better feedback later on.
Don’t interrupt. Don’t offer your advice unless the other person has finished speaking (this can be difficult in my experience). Simply be present at the moment and listen fully to what the other person has to say, letting them speak until they’ve completely articulated their thoughts.
It’s possible that all that is required is for you to listen for a few minutes as I vent and figure things out on my own.
Summarize what was said.
I’ve discovered that taking a few seconds to summarize what someone just said – for example, an extended segment about what occurred at work or in a relationship – makes it much easier to ensure I comprehended everything.
As I state that summary, the other person can modify or correct my comprehension, allowing me to offer my perspective, ideas, or queries in a more effective way based on my assumptions about what happened and how the other person experienced it.
I can also take some sort of action based on what they really meant rather than what I thought they meant (for example, in a work environment where an error might lead to aggravation and time wasted).
Finally, offer some feedback when it’s appropriate after the other person has had ample time to talk and you’ve cleared up any uncertainties. Try saying things like, “I can see why you’re excited,” or “I can understand how you feel.” Simple comments such as these may help you validate the speaker while also acknowledging their feelings.
Offer more in-depth feedback if your discussion partner has expressed a desire for your insight or assistance with a solution. Explain how you would handle the situation if it were to occur again, or how you would continue with what you just learned. Make sure you give precise information based on the circumstances to show that you heard their problem and comprehended their demand.
Listening carefully will improve your connection with everyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected thanks to smartphones and social media, listening abilities are essential.
Simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel as though what they have to say matters will help you establish better, more honest, and deeper connections.