Being a good listener is a very important life skill. As communication is a two-way street, we have conversations that require both talking and listening in every aspect of our lives.
As such, listening and not simply hearing what the person is necessary in order to make the most out of any conversation. This applies just as importantly under any scenario, whether it be during a meeting, attending a lecture, or chatting with family or friends.
There is a big difference between hearing and listening. The former is simply a sense of perception while the latter requires not only to focus but thought and understanding.
The tips mentioned below are some great ideas on how you can become a good listener.
Maintain Eye Contact
Some people are very wary of making eye contact due to inherent shyness or fear. You should definitely break this habit as eye contact not only lets you focus on one and only one person at a time, but it also gives you an air of confidence.
If this is not something that you can do, then look at their mouths and see them from their words instead. Both are great tips to not only be able to listen better but to better connect with the person speaking as well.
Remove All Distractions
Whether it be constantly looking at your mobile phone or fidgeting with a spoon or pen, remove all distractions and focus your efforts on listening to what the other party is saying.
Anything that distracts you from the conversation is another moment that you are missing out on words or phrases that should have been fully taken in. Worse, it distracts the one speaking at a certain level, as well.
When talking to people, make sure that you do not have anything that will catch your attention around you. If you unconsciously fidget around due to anxiety or other reasons, you should find a way to correct this.
Repeat Words or Phrases
Either to yourself or vocally, you can repeat important words or phrases as the person is speaking. This trick not only helps your brain in retaining conversations, but it also lets the speaker know that you are paying attention.
This, however, depends on the type of situation. Speaking out loud may distract the person speaking, and frequently repeating exactly what the person is saying may be too annoying, especially if they are on the roll with their end of the conversation.
Practice mouthing words as they are heard or repeating what is being said in paraphrase form; you will eventually learn to use this skill based on the circumstances and turn this ability into an art form.
This ability will not be applicable for informal chats with a friend or family member; however, this is very integral during meetings or when attending lectures. Keep a notebook handy and take down notes of only the most important aspects of the conversation.
It will take some practice, but in time you will be jotting down only random words and phrases. From these seemingly random words, you will find yourself being able to recall everything that was said completely and accurately.
Writing down notes has been proven to be more effective in memory retention when compared to typing them up in a laptop or tablet. Also, computer devices may pop up prompts that will distract you from the task at hand. As such, make it a point to develop writing things down in order to improve not just your listening skills but your recall as well.
Learn When to Speak or Ask Questions
Nobody likes to be interrupted. Of course, you may need to do so from time to time if something is unclear or if you want to know further details. If you do need to interrupt someone, do so in a polite manner. Raise your hand slightly or say, ‘” Excuse me, but I just have to ask…” or something to that effect. Simply talking while the other person is speaking is definitely in bad taste.
Of course, you can sometimes hold off on questions until the person is finished talking. In fact, some lecturers orient their audience to do just that at the beginning of their presentation so that they would not lose the flow of their thoughts. Still, some questions may be urgent, or asking them at a later time will make it lose their relevance. Whatever you do, make sure that your questions are in line with what was said and that you are able to stay on topic.
Another great trick that good listeners do is to frame their questions with what was actually said. Something like, “You said that (what the speaker said)” and then stating your question is a great way to show that you took notes of what was said and that you were really paying attention.
React as Needed
Reacting to what is being said is important to good listeners, and speakers will appreciate that as well. Nodding at the right places and laughing at jokes are skills mastered by great listeners, but make sure that you do not overdo it. Small actions can do it and, with practice, you will be able to master this skill.
Speaking and listening are two important parts of social interaction. These are the primary ways for us to communicate and be informed and many important pieces of information are transferred using verbal channels.
In addition, showing respect to the person speaking will, more often than not, will compel others to give you that same form of respect. This will allow you to talk and be listened to as well, should it be your turn to speak.
Practising how to listen well will vastly affect your daily life in a positive way, whether in personal or professional matters. Take the tips and tricks mentioned above and adapt them into your routines until they become habits that will benefit you in the long run in all aspects of your life.