These days it seems everywhere you go you see people glued to their mobile devices and communicating through social media platforms rather than face to face communication. I believe it is well pastime to relearn communication skills such as How to Become a Good Listener.
Listening is a skill that can enhance every area of our life.
Learning to effectively listen will help improve our relationships at home with family and friends, as well as at work or in school.
Many of us tend to have an over-inflated view of our listening skills.
There is more to listening than just being able to repeat back what the speaker has said.
We have all experienced a conversation where we felt heard, and validated after that conversation. We have also had conversations where we vulnerably tried to discuss a deeply personal issue but felt ignored, unheard and unimportant.
It is important to let the people in our lives know they are important to us by listening to them and really hearing what they are saying giving validation to their feelings.
“I like to listen, I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Ernest Hemingway
“Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus
Let’s take a closer look at how to become a good listener and put it into practice in our own lives and see for ourselves how it improves our professional and personal relationships. I am certain we will be amazed.
Remove All Distractions
Once you realize you will be having a conversation with someone, try to think of all possible distractions and remove them.
Turn off and put away your cell phone or tablet.
Turn off the computer or television.
If you are in the middle of something when someone needs to speak to you either ask them to wait a few moments for you to finish or stop what you are doing to give them your full attention. Multi-tasking is not an option.
If you are in a social situation try to find a quiet area away from other distractions to have the conversation.
If the children are around get them busy with an activity, preferably in another room.
Take Note of Body Language and Voice Tone
When we communicate we use much more than just words. Every little thing we do adds clues as to the real meaning of our words. Body language, tone of voice and even facial expressions contribute a wealth of information. If we are using our ears while looking at our phone we are missing more than half of the conversation.
Take note of the subtle clues of body language and see if they match with the spoken words.
If someone is saying everything is fine but their face is pinched and anxious that is telling you there is a discrepancy there and you need to ask more probing questions.
Learning to read what people truly mean by the subtle clues of body language and voice tone can be learned with practice.
Act as a Mirror
Rather than just repeat back what the person has said to you try stating the concept behind what they said. This shows a better understanding of the words spoken and makes the person feel heard.
You reflect words to show you understand them correctly and that you care about what was communicated.
Show Interest, Empathy and/or Sympathy
Your expressions, body language and words will show your interest in the conversation.
Little things like:
- nodding in agreement shows you are engaged and listening
- leaning forward toward the person shows strong interest
- smiling or showing concern at appropriate times is effective
- offering words of kindness and affirmation are important
- a gentle hand squeeze or warm touch on a shoulder effectively shows empathy
While these gestures may seem small they speak volumes about your level of engagement within the conversation.
Sometimes silence is the best form of listening.
Sometimes, people just need a person to act as a sounding board.
A response is not always required.
This period of silence can enable the person some time to be able to expand upon their thoughts.
Other times the most powerful connections can be made in that time of silence.
Of course, it is important to be in tune with the person and conversation to know whether a response is necessary.
Ask Probing Questions
By asking questions you are showing interest in the person and the topic being discussed.
Open-ended questions are more effective as they require more than a yes or no response and they show the other person you are paying attention and interested.
Keep in mind you want to listen more than you question but a few well-placed questions can be non-threatening and show your interest.
Never Interrupt or Change the Subject
A good listener will always allow the speaker to complete their thought without changing the subject.
I am sure we have all come across certain people who constantly interrupt to change the topic to something about themself or something they have expertise in.
This is a pet peeve of both mine and our daughter.
Our daughter is very big on teaching her children not to interrupt starting at a very young age, very soon after they begin to talk.
As a result, she has not only well-behaved but well-spoken children with impeccable manners who rarely, if ever, interrupt anyone who is speaking.
This is important because whether a person realizes they are interrupting someone or not, they are sending the message that they haven’t heard or don’t care about what the speaker has said.
Always allow for a natural break in the conversation before offering your thoughts or advice on the subject.
It is also a good idea to ensure you always offer a response to the speakers’ topic rather than leaving them hanging when they have finished speaking, before changing the topic.
Give Careful Thought to your Response
Once it is your turn to speak, make sure your response reflects your careful listening. If you had been truly engaged in what they were saying, you wouldn’t be focused on what you were going to say.
Take a moment to think about your response and what you want to add to the conversation in a meaningful way.
If they sought your advice be sure you reflect carefully so you can offer well-considered, thoughtful advice which shows you truly care.
As a technician, I had to become a good listener because I could never fix a problem if I can’t understand what is not working. Sometimes people don’t know how to explain things and it makes it very hard to understand what is wrong. Just saying the thingy is broke doesn’t help much. One can very quickly give up on helping because it doesn’t make sense.
And then when you add in another language to the mix it quickly becomes a huge challenge just to decipher what the problem is. Of course, once I can figure out what is not working I then have to solve the problem with the device.
Becoming a good listener is essential to becoming a good problem solver.
As you can see learning how to become a good listener is no big secret, we can all learn if we put forth a little effort.
It does take daily conscious effort and practice to effectively become a good listener.
It is important to take the time every day to consciously work on listening more than speaking.
Learn to read body language and facial expressions.
Pay attention to the tone of voice the speaker is using.
A good indicator that you are becoming a better listener is that people will tend to seek your opinion or advice more frequently.
You’ll find that your relationships will improve and you will develop an edge at work which will help you advance more quickly.
Don’t try to master everything all at once.
Choose one thing from the suggestion in this article and work on that until it is second nature. then work on one more thing.
Before long, you will be well on your way to being a better listener and remember…
…you can’t be a great learner if you are not a great listener.
Thanks for dropping by. I’d love to hear any tips that you may have on becoming a better listener, feel free to drop a line in the comment section below.