Use these listening skills.iStock-izusek
von Dianne Schilling
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In today's high-tech, high-speed, and stressful world, communication is more important than ever, but it seems we're spending less and less time listening to each other. True listening has become a rare gift: the gift of time. It helps build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts, and improve accuracy. At work, effective listening means fewer mistakes and less wasted time. At home, it helps to develop imaginative and independent children who can solve their own problems. Listening builds friendships and careers. Save money and weddings.
Here are 10 tips to help you develop effective listening.
Step 1: Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
Talking to someone while scanning the room, looking at a computer screen, or looking out a window is like trying to hit a moving target. How much of the person's divided attention are you really getting? Fifty percent? Five percent? If the person were your child, you could request, "Look at me when I'm talking to you," but you don't say that to a lover, friend, or co-worker.
In most Western cultures, eye contact is considered a fundamental part of effective communication. When we talk, we look into each other's eyes. That doesn't mean you can't have a conversation from across the room or from another room, but if the conversation goes on for a while, you (or the other person) will get up and move. The desire for better communication unites you.
Give your interlocutors the courtesy to address them. Let go of papers, books, phone and other distractions. Look at them even when they're not looking at you. Shyness, insecurity, shame, guilt, or other emotions, along with cultural taboos, can prevent eye contact in some people under certain circumstances. I'm sorry for the other one, but stay focused.
Step 2: Be alert but relaxed.
Now that you've made eye contact, relax. You don't have to stare at the other person. You can look away from time to time and act like a normal person. It is important to be attentive. The dictionary says that "meet another person" means:
- to be present
- pay attention
- apply or apply
- Pay attention
- stand ready to serve
Mentally eliminate distractions like background activities and noise. Also, try not to focus so much on the speaker's accent or speaking gestures that they become distracting. Finally, don't let your own thoughts, feelings, or prejudices distract you.
Step 3: Keep an open mind.
Listen without judging the other person or mentally criticizing the things they are saying to you. If what he says worries you, go ahead and be concerned, but don't tell yourself, "Well, that was a stupid move." Once you indulge in conflicting judgments, you compromise your effectiveness as a listener.
Listen without jumping to conclusions. Remember that the speaker uses language to represent the thoughts and feelings in your brain. You don't know what those thoughts and feelings are, and the only way to find out is to listen.
Don't be a phrase catcher. From time to time, my partner can't slow their mental rate down enough to listen effectively, so they try to speed mine up by pausing and finishing my sentences. This usually upsets him because he's following his own train of thought and doesn't know where my thoughts are going. After a few rounds, I usually ask, "Do you want to have this conversation alone, or do you want to hear what I have to say?" I wouldn't do this to everyone, but it works for him.
Step 4: Listen to the words and try to imagine what the speaker is saying.
Allow your mind to create a mental model of the information being transmitted. Whether it's a literal image or a series of abstract concepts, your brain will do the work it needs as long as you stay focused and your senses fully awake. If you listen for a long time, focus and memorize key words and phrases.
When it's your turn to listen, don't waste time thinking about what to say next. You can't practice and listen at the same time. Just think about what the other person is saying.
Finally, focus on what is being said, even if it bothers you. When your mind begins to wander, immediately force yourself to refocus.
Step 5: Don't interrupt or push your "solutions".
The children have been taught that it is impolite to interrupt. I'm not sure anymore if this message will be transmitted. Certainly the opposite is modeled on most talk shows and reality shows, where aggressive and outspoken behavior is tolerated, if not encouraged.
The interrupt sends a variety of messages. He says:
- "I'm more important than you."
- "What I have to say is more interesting, accurate or relevant."
- "I really don't care what you think."
- "I don't have time for your opinion."
- "This is not a conversation, this is a competition and I will win."
We all think and speak at different speeds. If you're a fast thinker and a fast talker, the onus is on yousheto ease your pace for the slower, thoughtful communicator or the type who has trouble expressing themselves.
If you hear someone talking about a problem, avoid suggesting solutions. Most of us don't want your advice anyway. If yes, we will ask for it. Most of us prefer to find our own solutions. We need you to listen to us and help us do this. Sometime, when you're completely blown away by an ingenious solution, at least get the speaker's permission. Ask, "Would you like to hear my ideas?"
Step 6: Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.
Of course, if you don't understand something, you should ask the speaker to explain it to you. But instead of pausing, wait for the speaker to pause. Then say something like, "Wait a minute. I don't understand what you just said about…”
Step 7: Only ask questions to ensure understanding.
Over lunch, a colleague excitedly recounts her trip to Vermont and all the wonderful things she has seen and done. Throughout this chronicle, he recounts spending time with a mutual friend. You jump in with, "Oh, I haven't heard from Alice in years. How is she?” and then the discussion shifts to Alice and her divorce and poor kids leading to a comparison of custody laws and before you know it an hour has passed and Vermont is a distant memory.
This particular conversational affront happens all the time. Our questions take people in directions that have nothing to do with whereyouI thought they would go. Sometimes we go back to the original topic, but often we don't.
If you find that your question has thrown the caller off, take responsibility for picking up the conversation again by saying something like, "It was great hearing from Alice, but tell me more about your adventure in Vermont."
Step 8: Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.
If you are sad, when your interlocutor expresses sadness, elated when they express joy, anxious when they describe their fears, and convey these feelings through your facial expressions and words, then your effectiveness as a listener is assured. Empathy is the heart and soul of good listening.
To experience empathy, you must put yourself in the other person's shoes and allow yourself to feel as they are.be herthis moment. That is not easy. It requires energy and focus. But it's a generous and useful thing, and it facilitates communication like nothing else.
Step 9: Give the speaker regular feedback.
Show that you understand where the speaker is coming from by mirroring the speaker's feelings. "You must be excited!" "What a horrible experience for you." "I see that you are confused." If the speaker's feelings are hidden or unclear, occasionally paraphrase the content of the message. Or just nod and show your understanding with appropriate facial expressions and the occasional "hmmm" or "uh huh".
The idea is to provide the speaker with evidence that you are listening and following their train of thought without indulging your own fantasies while speaking into the airwaves.
In homework situations, whether at work or at home, always repeat instructions and messages to make sure you understand them correctly.
Step 10: Notice WhatIt is notsaid - on non-verbal signals.
If you eliminate email, most direct communication will likely be non-verbal. We collect a lot of information from each other without saying a word. Even on the phone, you can learn almost as much about a person from the tone and cadence of their voice as you can from what they say. When I'm talking to my best friend, no matter what we're talking about, if I hear a snap and a laugh in her voice, I'm sure she's fine.
When you face a person face to face, you can very quickly detect excitement, boredom or irritation in the expression around the eyes, in the shape of the mouth, in the slant of the shoulders. These are hints you cannot ignore. As you listen, remember that words convey only a fraction of the message.
Listening comprehension exercise: summarize, summarize, summarize!
For at least a week, conclude with a summary statement at the end of every conversation in which information is exchanged. In conversations that lead to agreements about future commitments or activities, summarizing not only ensures accurate follow-up, but also feels natural. If summarizing in conversations without agreement feels uncomfortable, explain that you are doing it as an exercise.
dianne chelinis a writer, editor, graphic artist, and instructional designer specializing in the development of educational materials and custom training programs for businesses and industries. She has a master's degree in consulting and is a founding partner of WomensMedia.
You might also like this article:9 small steps that will make you happier from now on.