Listening is an integral part of our daily lives. Being an effective and active listener gives you an edge in your personal and professional life.
When it comes down to it, listening and hearing are very different things. Your body naturally hears sounds, but comprehension requires mental action. You can listen passively without paying attention — or you can listen actively, which is the foundation of relationship-building.
Here are seven practices to help you become a better listener:
Allow others to tell their stories first. You save time by letting them speak first. When you know what they're interested in, you can tailor your conversation to their specific needs, goals, and objectives.
You cannot talk and listen simultaneously. Not interrupting allows the other person to continue with their thoughts. Why not wait until the speaker has made his or her point? Then you'll get your chance.
Actively listen for central ideas. Specific facts are only relevant if they are related to the central theme. Relate the facts stated to the speaker. “What is the speaker getting at?” you might wonder. Alternatively, "What is his point?" Then, obtain feedback. If you guess correctly, your understanding and attention are improved. If you make a mistake, you learn from it.
Keep distractions at bay. Train yourself to pay close attention to your customer's words, even if there are external distractions such as a ringing phone, passersby, or other office noise. Concentrate on the words, ideas, feelings, and underlying intent. Enhance your concentration so that you can block out external and internal distractions and pay complete attention to the speaker.
Keep asking for feedback. Always try to double-check your understanding of what you're hearing. Don't just listen to what you want to hear.
Keep an open mind. Let the other person complete his/her train of thought. Be open to hearing new ideas, perspectives and concepts.
Always ask questions. Allow the speaker to express his feelings and thoughts by asking open-ended questions. A simple yes or no is insufficient. Ask specific questions and keep engaging actively.
Listen honestly with hand and body gestures. Face the speaker with your arms and legs uncrossed. Lean forward slightly. Make direct eye contact. When appropriate, use affirmative head nods and appropriate facial gestures, but don't overdo it.
Make a good listening environment. Attempt to create a private environment away from potential sources of distraction.
Actively Repeat what you heard. The basic idea is to restate back to the speaker what you have heard. You can proceed if the speaker agrees that what you heard was what he or she intended to say. If not, the speaker should rephrase their statement until the listener fully comprehends it.
Now that you have read all the tips, try to implement most of them in real life.
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