Wondering how to be a better listener? Here are some useful ways to improve your listening skills.
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” –Karl A. Menninger.
It has been observed that humans usually have just about an 8-second attention span and with so many distractions around us, we often fail to follow what the other person is saying. And it’s vice-versa – so when you speak your heart & mind to someone, there are chances that you’ve not been listened to, fully.
In today’s fast-paced life, we all need someone who would listen to us. Needless to say, effective listening is one of the most valuable skills one can acquire and it is one of the key elements to nurture our relationships – both personal and professional.
When you’re at work, effective listening would help you to be more productive making fewer errors. At home, it’ll help you weave stronger bonds with your close ones.
“The art of conversation lies in listening.” – Malcolm Forbes
Genuine listening has become rare, but if practiced well – it can build relationships, sort out various problems, resolve conflicts, enhance understanding and boost accuracy. Wondering how to become a better listener?
Here are 7 useful ways in which you can develop your effective listening skills.
- Ways to improve your listening skills:
- 1. Always maintain eye contact with the speaker.
- 2. Don’t interrupt while someone is speaking.
- 3. Keep an open mind while listening.
- 4. Don’t come up with instant solutions!
- 5. Try to visualize what the speaker is saying.
- 6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.
- 7. Try to understand what’s not said out loud!
Ways to improve your listening skills:
1. Always maintain eye contact with the speaker.
Our body language plays a vital role while communicating with someone, and always make sure to look into the eyes of the person who’s speaking to you.
It’s not like you need to stare without blinking, but just have a gentle glance, ensuring that you’re mindful of what he/she is saying.
When you are listening to someone talk, you should avoid looking out of the window, texting or scrolling through your phone, etc.
Your gestures will encourage the person to continue expressing himself/herself, without any inhibitions.
It is also important to express that you’re listening – by nodding (maybe). Along with eye contact, occasionally nodding and smiling are signs of a good listener. This will reassure the speaker that you’re attentive, through your expressions.
“The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and like a mirror, they also reflect the person looking into them.” – Paul Coehlo.
2. Don’t interrupt while someone is speaking.
Most of us are too impatient to listen to what someone’s saying, and even before they finish, we start speaking our own minds!
But that shouldn’t be done. Instead, we should let the other person finish and cultivate patience before rushing to reply!
When we hurry in replying, it shows that we don’t care much about what’s been told to us – rather focus more on sharing our opinion about the matter (which, most of the time, is unwanted!).
Interrupting a conversation often sends the wrong message to the speaker. It may seem that what you have to say is more important, than what they are saying.
3. Keep an open mind while listening.
I know that it gets too difficult at times to not make any judgments while listening, but if you practice, you can surely ace this skill.
When we judge a person while they tell us their story/experiences/opinions etc., our effectiveness as a listener is highly compromised. We end up jumping to conclusions ever before the person finishes talking.
It’s important to remember that when a person is expressing themselves, they are making an effort to use language to represent their thoughts and feelings, and as a listener, it’s your duty to respect that effort of expression.
While some people can articulate their thoughts very easily, many people can’t – and thus, it’s important to be mindful as a listener.
“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” –M. Scott Peck.
4. Don’t come up with instant solutions!
If someone is sharing their problems with you, refrain from suggesting an instant solution. Most of the time, people aren’t seeking your advice anyway!
When they would need an advice/solution, they’d ask for it. Be calm while listening and then if you strongly feel that you’ve got a brilliant suggestion to offer, ask politely – “Would you care to know my ideas?/ Can I say something to help?”
5. Try to visualize what the speaker is saying.
Like I mentioned before, we often get distracted while having a conversation. But if we try to visualize what we’re being told, then not only will it enhance our listening but it’ll also help us to retain the information.
It doesn’t need to be an exact picturization, but an abstract reframing of the events related to the topic will surely help you in staying focused.
In case your thoughts start to wander, you can refocus on the visuals and get back in track once again, listening to what’s being told.
6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.
There’s no harm in asking questions (infact, it’s a sign that you’re interested in the conversation) – but make sure not to interrupt the speaker. Wait for them to pause, and then ask your question.
Also, be polite while choosing your words and try to ask specific questions, rather than making them repeat the same thing again and again.
If there’s something that you didn’t understand, apologize and seek further clarification. And to experience empathy, you have to put yourself in the other person’s place – which you can only do when you’ve been listening mindfully and have all your doubts cleared.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” –Bryant H. McGill.
7. Try to understand what’s not said out loud!
If you are attentive enough, you’ll notice that there are certain non-verbal cues hidden in a conversation.
Often, due to distractions, we miss out observing those hints – and thus, fail to understand what the other person is trying to convey. When you have a conversation over a phone call, the voice and the tone of the person often discloses their mood.
When I talk to my best friend, it doesn’t matter what we chat about, if I hear a lilt and laughter in her voice, I feel reassured that she’s doing well. Similarly, over text messages, usage of emojis can define the mood of the person.
While having a face to face conversation, it’s easier to feel the pulse of the person and understand their mood. To be a good listener, it’s very important that we understand what it the speaker’s state of mind.
Listening mindfully is an art and we can hone this skill only through practice. Your listening skills will also be nurtured by your curiosity and genuine interest in having a conversation.
Be aware when you’re having a conversation with someone, and once you get back to your own space, try to remember the important cues and jot them down.
This would enable you to understand how attentive you’ve been as well as help you in future conversations.
Do you care to become a good listener?