“Do you hear what I am thinking?” That is a stupid question, right? Not really. To listen well you must be able to understand the very thought process of the speaker. To do that you must LISTEN. So many of us are processing our own response to the speakers comments WHILE we are supposedly listening to them. I have a friend that is really annoying in conversations. He will jump in before I am done and will repeat a half sentence three times until I stop talking so he can comment. It is obvious that he is not interested in my opinion/comments and is much more interested in making his rebuttal before I am done. He has never acquired the skill of listening.
Another important point in listening is to determine their definitions of the words they use. When I was giving seminars I usually started by asking 4 or five people in the front row to visualize the color blue. Then I would have each one describe in detail their shade of blue. None were ever alike. Point is, I said blue and they each had their own version of that one word. Their life experiences dictated the shade of blue they visualized. It is the same with each word we use. Our life experiences will determine which meaning of the word we are intending to convey. You must listen carefully to the speaker to fully understand their intent.
Ernest Hemingway once said “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” People want to be heard and listened to; they want to feel like someone cares. Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give to another person. People will naturally gravitate towards you, and appreciate you.
This post provides tips on how to be a better listener. For this list of tips we assume that you are going to make a commitment to improve your listening skills.
- Listening is not a skill with which we are born. We must develop good listening skills. Practice the skill each time you are involved in a conversation for the next month.
- You have two ears and one mouth, use proportionally. Most people like to talk, especially about themselves. If you are the type that wants to jump in and offer an opinion or suggestion in the middle of the conversation, make every effort not to do so. Give the speaker the opportunity to be fully heard. TIP: To keep your own thoughts at bay, in your mind, repeat every word the speaker says, immediately after he has said it. You will be listening only to the speaker’s words.
- Give the speaker your undivided attention. Regardless, if you are listening to a friend, co-worker, or employee, they deserve your undivided attention. Try to eliminate all distractions (e.g., phones, computers, TVs) that would interfere with your giving full attention to the speaker.
- If you are listening to a different viewpoint, place yourself in their shoes. Even if you do not agree with them, it may help you to better understand their perspective.
- Important points should be written down when listening to someone.
- Always be objective when listening to others. Loose any attachment to what is being said by setting aside your own thoughts, judgments, and experiences.
- Summarize or paraphrase what has just been by them. This will confirm that you heard him correctly.
- Always observe their nonverbal behaviors. If the individual’s words and non-verbal behaviors are contradictory, their arms and/or legs crossed and if they not looking directly at you or avoiding eye contact, and if their body turned away from you, this person is “closed” from having a conversation. They may be embarrassed, or trying to avoid a confrontation, or simply doesn’t want to talk.
- If the individual is smiling, looking directly at you, and has a relaxed stance, he is open to dialogue.
- Pay attention to how they are conveying their message. Their demeanor will indicate their passion level for that subject. Their tone reflects their emotions. An increased volume and tone changes will indicate anger or passionate about an issue. If they talk faster they are excited and slower when they are depressed.