Let’s be real- we like hearing ourselves talk. Listening to another person without any interruption whatsoever is like being stuck in class watching a boring PowerPoint presentation, where the only method of escaping is asking to use the restroom. How much do you care about what the other person has to say? Probably not that much, considering you have a huge laundry list of things you need to do for the day, and either you already know what’s being said, or you don’t have much interest in the subject.
Whatever personal feelings you have towards the other person or their message is irrelevant in being a good listener. Listening is one of the most important skills because it gets the job done. Everyone needs to communicate with each other, and all forms of communication require listening in one way or another. If you are having trouble being a good listener, it’s time to sit down and have a lesson on listening. Please read the whole thing.
1. Do not be distracted.
Give whoever is speaking your full and undivided attention, so you don’t miss anything that they are saying. Being attentive is the first and most important step in becoming a better listener. The most distractions are not external- they’re actually in your head. Snap out of your daydream, shoo away all of your scurrying thoughts, and clear your head. Don’t think that you can multitask while listening to someone else. Your brain can only focus on doing one thing at a time, that’s what it’s wired for. Continuing to multitask will only damage your chances of being a better listener, which will damage your understanding, and overall performance. Besides, it’s rude.
2. Let the person begin speaking, and finish speaking.
Don’t interject. Even if you knew that person was going to say the exact same thing you were thinking, assuming will always obstruct you from being attentive to that person, and receiving that person’s message. Assuming does not allow you to be open with hearing what another person has to say. There may be something you’re hearing that the other person isn’t saying. It also makes whoever is speaking feel disrespected. As we all know, when you assume, it makes an ass out of u and me.
3. Don’t just nod and say, “Yeah.”
Always clarify what the speaker just said by asking the speaker him/herself. Really communicate with the other person. Doing this will help you grasp a better understanding of their position. Perhaps they said something that was out-of-context, or something they did not mean to say at all. One thing to always remember is that people make mistakes. Run by everything with the speaker, and then you will have a lucid account of what s/he spoke about with you.
4. Look at other aspects.
You can learn a great deal from looking at someone. Study the speaker’s facial expressions, hand gestures, tone of voice, how they use the space around them, etc. Pretend the person is an actor, delivering a monologue, and you are analyzing everything about the performance. It may sound like a silly exercise, but it will help you pay attention, and gain more out of what they are saying. You will hear, and feel the words.
5. Ask questions
Always ask questions. That’s what they teach in classrooms, and that’s what’s useful in all conversations. Maybe there was something that the speaker did not include, or you want to know more about what the speaker is saying. Asking questions conveys that you have a genuine interest in what the speaker was saying, and it can forge better connections. It is the backbone in effective communication. You’ll never know the answer if you don’t ask!
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