In today’s world where technology is at the forefront of almost everything, communication is more important than ever. However, it seems that we devote an increasingly less amount of time to actually listening to each other. Genuine 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 errors and less wasted time. At home, it helps develop resourceful, self-reliant kids who can solve their own problems. Listening builds friendships and careers. It saves money and marriages.
Here are some timeless tips for improving your listening skills:
1. Eye contact is extremely important.
Whilst you don’t want to stare at the person and make them uncomfortable, maintaining good eye contact shows that you are giving your undivided attention to the speaker. Put away your phone, laptop or other device. Stop gazing around the room or out the window. 100% attention is the first step to be a good listener.
2. Keep an open mind
Listen without judging the other person or mentally criticizing the things he/she tells you. If what he/she says alarms you, go ahead and feel alarmed, but don’t say to yourself, “Well, that was a stupid move.” As soon as you indulge in judgmental thoughts, you’ve lost some of your effectiveness as a listener.
Listen without jumping to conclusions. Remember that the speaker is using language to represent the thoughts and feelings inside his/her brain. You don’t know what those thoughts and feelings are and the only way you’ll find out is by listening.
3. Don’t interrupt.
Interrupting is not only rude, it sends a variety of negative messages such as
• “I’m more important than you are.”
• “What I have to say is more interesting, accurate or relevant.”
• “I don’t really care what you think.”
• “I don’t have time for your opinion.”
• “This isn’t a conversation, it’s a contest, and I’m going to win.”
4. Ask questions if you don’t understand.
Asking questions to ensure clarity and understanding is a great idea. It shows that you are interested and want to know more. Don’t barrage your speaker with unnecessary questions, and wait to ask until there is a clear opening to do so.
5. Practice, Practice Practice!
The best way to learn something is to keep practicing it. Practice these techniques and you will improve those vital listening skills in no time.