Nowadays, even though we have a lot of high-performance technology, it came with a lot of stress. An important component of communication is active listening. With so many elements distracting us, we need to learn again how to stay focused. Active listening helps us build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding and resolve conflicts. At work, effective listening means fewer mistakes and less time wasted.
We have prepared an article with 10 tips to help you develop effective listening skills.
#1 Pay attention to who you are talking to
How do you feel when the person you’re talking to is looking at your laptop or phone? Ugly feeling, right? Wondering how much of that person’s attention you get? 50%? 5%? When it comes to your child, you can tell them to look at you when you talk, but it doesn’t apply to a partner, friend or colleague.
In most Western cultures, eye contact is considered a basic ingredient of effective communication. When we talk, we look into each other’s eyes. Set aside papers, books, your phone, and other things that distract you. Look at the people you talk to, even if they don’t do the same thing.
Now that you already have eye contact, relax. You don’t have to stare at the other person. You can look elsewhere from time to time. The important thing is to be careful. The dictionary says that to participate refers to:
- being present
- paying attention
- being ready to react
Try to ignore the background noise and also don’t focus on the speaker’s accent or certain verbal tics.
#3 Be open-minded
Listen without judging the other person or criticizing what they tell you. As soon as you put certain labels, you compromised your effectiveness as a listener.
Also, listen without firing conclusions. The speaker chooses to use certain words to express their thoughts and feelings, so listen to him.
#4 Try to imagine what the speaker is saying
Creates an image of the communicated information. Whether it is an exact image or an arrangement of abstract concepts, it will help you better understand the other’s message. When listening to long stories, focus on keywords and phrases. When it’s your turn to listen, don’t spend time planning what to say next. You can’t repeat and listen at the same time. Focus only on what the other person is saying.
#5 Do not interrupt or impose “solutions”
Children are taught from an early age that it is rude to interrupt. We are not sure if this message is still relevant. When you interrupt someone, you’re actually telling them:
“I’m more important than you.”
“What I have to say is more interesting, more precise or more relevant.”
“I don’t really care what you think.”
“I don’t have time for your opinion.”
Remember: we all think and speak at different paces.
When you hear someone talking about a problem, refrain from suggesting solutions. Most do not necessarily want advices, but only a person who listens to them. When they need advice, they ask for it. But if, however, you have a brilliant idea, ask first “Would you like to hear how I would / did?”.
# 6: Wait for the other to pause to ask questions
When you don’t understand something, of course you have to ask for clarification. But instead of interrupting, wait until he pauses. Then you can say “I didn’t understand what you said about …”
#7 Ask questions just to make sure you understand
At noon, a colleague enthusiastically tells you about her trip to Iasi and about all the wonderful things she did and saw. Throughout this story, she mentions that she spent some time with a mutual friend. You react with “Oh, I haven’t heard of Alina in centuries. How is doing?” and, in the same way, the discussion goes to Alina, her divorce and her children and, before you know it, an hour has passed and Iași is a distant memory.
These deviations from discussions happen all the time. Our questions lead people in directions that have nothing to do with the original purpose of the discussion. Sometimes we return to the original subject, but often not.
When you notice that your question has taken you away from the original topic, take responsibility for resuming the conversation on the right track, saying: “It was great to hear about Alina, but tell me more about your vacation in Iasi.”
#8 Try to feel what the speaker is feeling
If you feel sad when the person you are talking to conveys sadness, happy when he expresses joy, scared when he describes his fears, then your effectiveness as a listener is assured. Empathy is the heart and soul of good listening. To experience empathy, you need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and allow yourself to feel what it is like to be him/her at that moment. It is not an easy thing to do. It takes energy and concentration.
#9 Provide feedback to the speaker
Reactions like, “Wow. You must be delighted! ”,“ What a terrible ordeal for you ”,“ I see you are confused. ” – It helps you become a better listener because you empathize with the other person’s story. The idea is to give your discussion partner little evidence that you are present.
#10 Pay attention to what is not said – to the nonverbal and para verbal cues
Aside from email, most direct communication, is nonverbal and para verbal. We gather a lot of information about the other without saying a word. Even over the phone, you can learn almost as much about a person from the tone and rhythm of their voice as they would live. When I talk to my best friend, it doesn’t matter what we talk about, if I hear her laughing, I feel calm that she’s fine. Face to face with a person, you can see very quickly when they are excited or bored by facial expressions. These are clues you can’t ignore. When you listen, remember: words only convey a quarter of the message.
Now we have a challenge for you: for at least a week, at the end of each conversation, make a summary. This is a very good exercise, both for work and personal life. How actively do you listen?