Effective listening is an interpersonal skill that everyone should inculcate within themselves. It helps you be a better communicator, make meaningful relationships and there is always so much that you can learn from just listening. You’ll listen better and be better listened to if you consistently practice the following tips:
1. Let others express themselves first. By letting them speak, you come across as an empathetic person. You save time because when their interests are disclosed and can customize your conversation with them according to their particular goals, wants and objectives. Don’t complete their sentences, let them fully express themselves. You will get your turn.
2. Don’t try to multitask. You cannot listen and talk at the same time. Not interrupting allows the other person to keep their train of thought. Because you have given them the freedom to convey their thoughts as it is, the speaker feels safe with sharing their emotions with you. Why not wait until the speaker’s point is made?
3. Listen for the main ideas. Your understanding is enhanced when you listen to the speaker for those very specific facts as they pertain to the main theme. Ask yourself: “What is the speaker getting at?” or “what is the point that they are trying to make?” This increases your attention span.
4. Let the distractions go away. Train yourself to carefully listen to what your customer or client has to say, despite external distractions as a ringing telephone, office noise or passersby. Try and grasp the ideas, words, intent of the speaker. Improve your power of concentration so that you cancel all kinds of internal and external distractions.
5. React to the message, not the person. Some of your least favorite people can come up with profound ideas, perspectives or thoughts. Don’t allow your mental impression of them hamper you from listening to them. You never know in what way they may inspire you.
6. Use feedback. Constantly try to check your understanding of what you listen. Don’t only hear what you want to hear.
7. Try not to be overly critical of someone’s viewpoint, mentally or verbally. Allow the speaker enough time to completely finish their train of thought. You might end up agreeing with them at a later point into the conversation. Even if you end up having differences of opinion, respect theirs. It shows that you have an open mind.
8. Listen attentively. Face the speaker with utmost concentration. You must keep your posture firm and attentive. Establish eye contact. Make use of affirmative head nods and appropriate facial expressions when called for, don’t overdo them.
9. Establish a positive environment. Keep your surroundings distraction free. Shoot for a private atmosphere.
10. Ask questions. Ask open-ended questions to allow the speaker to express their feelings and ideas. A simple one word answer is not the right way to go about it. Clarifying questions seek information by restating the speaker’s remarks. The effective use of questions allows you to carry on the conversation.