Learning how to be a better listener is a task that can yield an array of benefits, especially in terms of our personal and professional relationships. However, when communicating with others, we may find ourselves preoccupied by factors occurring internally or externally. For example, thinking about what we want to say as opposed giving our full attention to the person we are conversing with. In turn, this behavior inhibits our ability to be an effective listener. So where do we go from here? How can we break this cycle? Well, we can start by becoming familiar with these helpful tips on how to be a better listener.
1. Stop Doing Other Things
In the fast-paced world that we live in, multitasking is an essential skill to have in order to fulfill our daily responsibilities. However, when it comes to learning how to be a better listener, multitasking can be a hindrance. To say the least, it impedes us from focusing on what the other person is saying. A simple way to avoid this distraction is to stop what we are doing and give our full attention to the person who is speaking.
2. Use Inviting Body Language
To be a better listener, it is important that the person who is speaking knows that you are open to hearing what she has to say. This individual wants to feel that she has your full attention. For the listener, this can be accomplished by being approachable and by using inviting body language. What exactly does this mean? Put simply, inviting body language can involve a number of nonverbal acts depicting openness. Some common ones include but are not limited to sitting at eye level, making eye contact, and facing the person who is speaking.
3. Partake in Active Listening
Now that the speaker feels comfortable talking to you, as the listener, you can further encourage communication by engaging in active listening. In the general sense, active listening goes beyond just hearing what the speaker is saying. It also involves genuinely trying to understand what is being communicated and ensuring that the speaker is aware of this effort. For those of us still in the early stages of learning how to be a better listener, this may sound challenging, but it does not have to be. Really! Active listening can be as simple as nodding in response to what is being said or using affirmative words like yes or okay. The goal here is to let the speaker know that you are present.
4. Be Open Minded
Being open minded is key to becoming a better listener. Sometimes when we are not in someone else’s shoes, it is easy to pass judgment on decisions made. However, when it comes to being an effective listener, passing judgment will likely discourage the speaker and blocker further communication. It takes a lot for someone to open up to another, especially if it concerns something personal. Therefore, it is crucial that a good listener refrains from passing judgment and keeps an open mind as a means to enable an unobstructed flow of communication.
5. Avoid Thinking about What You Are Going to Say
When communicating with another person, it is so easy to get caught up in what we want to say that we fail to realize an important fact—we are no longer listening! As the listener, we do not want the speaker feel that we are not fully invested. To ensure effective communication, try to eliminate the urge of thinking about what you want to say. As with any conversation, your turn to speak will come. For the time being, try to redirect the energy spent focusing on what you want to say, towards focusing on what is being communicated.
6. Don’t Interrupt
Can you think back to a time where you were interrupted while speaking? How did it feel? I know that for me, it was very frustrating. No one likes to be cut off mid-sentence or have to continually repeat themselves due constant interruptions. Such an occurrence can be a disaster for productive communication. Nevertheless, it can also be easily avoided by remembering to hold our tongues and resist the urge to blurt out our thoughts and opinions while someone else is speaking.
7. Summarize and Repeat What You Heard
Great, you have made it through the conversation listening attentively to the speaker and now this person wants your input. How do you proceed? From past interactions, I have learned that the best way to respond after taking on the role of a listener is to paraphrase what was communicated. This practice provides a way to make sure that I have an accurate understanding of what the speaker was saying. An added bonus is that the speaker will know and appreciate the fact that you were listening.
Learning how to be a better listener is not something that needs to be accomplished all at once. As with any challenge in life, the more we practice, the better the outcome. Some great tips were shared on how to be a better listener, but what are some other tips or advice a person can use to improve overall her listening skills?