I was excited to write this post because I think it's such an important skill: Being a good listener. I've always been more of a "listener" than a "talker" but I know there are times when I am better at it than others. I'm excited to become better at it by practicing the techniques below...
Think about this... Do you listen to comprehend or do you listen to reply?
Some people may have better listening skills with their friends and colleagues than they do with their spouses. I've heard that this is a common complaint with spouses... to feel "un-heard". People can become too comfortable or think they know their spouse so well that they tune them out.
You can probably think of times when you could've been a better listener. With SO many different personalities out there, it's a great skill to learn to become better at.... because you never know when someone really needs you to listen to them.
- Open up your body language. Your body language can tell another person whether you are interested or disinterested in what they have to say. Lean slightly forward and make eye contact. A simple smile and occasional nod can show someone that you are interested and engaged in their story. If you are at an event where you don't know anyone, your body language can signal nervousness. This can be crossing your arms, shoving your hands in your pockets, avoiding eye contact... these small physical barriers can discourage others from even approaching you.
- Stay engaged. When in a busy area, focus on the person you're with rather than what is going on around you. Similarly, when on the phone with someone, turn off the TV, close that laptop... and give the person you are talking to your full attention. All the technology out there today can be VERY distracting....that distraction can make others feel unimportant. If it's impossible to focus at that moment, be upfront and tell them you want to be able to focus fully on what they have to say and suggest a better place or time.
- Resist the urge to interrupt. We've all done this. It can be tempting to finish someone's sentence to show you comprehend their message, but it can come off as rude. Listening builds trust. If you interrupt someone, even with good intentions, it denies the person the opportunity to fully express themselves. You also may be assuming you comprehend their message when you don't. To ensure that you won't interrupt, always pause for a few seconds before responding. Often by doing this, they will add something important that they would have left out otherwise. Resist the urge to talk about yourself right away. You can always add a similar story about yourself later to show you understand.
- Ask questions. The two most powerful words in a conversation are, "Tell me." People will perk up when you ask them questions and listen closely to what they have to say. If you take an active interest in the lives of others, they will return the favor. Open-ended questions provide a good opportunity for people to elaborate on a given topic and will keep the conversation flowing smoothly. If you don't understand the point someone is trying to make, ask for clarification or specific examples.
- Be empathetic. Don't just listen with your ears, listen with your eyes and your heart. Even if you don't agree with them, imagine how they must feel. Put yourself in their shoes. Don't focus on what you're going to say next. It's distracting and hinders the conversation. Focus on their story. Ask yourself, "How would I feel if that was me?" And once you've fully absorbed what the person has said, respond thoughtfully.
I hope these techniques will help you in more than one area of your life...practice them. Remember, don't judge or criticize... just simply listen.
Some fun quotes, enjoy!...
"Everyone you will ever meet, knows something you don't." -Bill Nye
"Listening is often the only thing needed to help someone." -unknown
"Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens."
"God gave us mouths that close and ears that don't, that must tell us something."
"Learn to be a good listener. Your ears will never get you into trouble."
"The work LISTEN contains the same letters as SILENT."
"There is a difference between truly listening and waiting for your turn to talk. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Listen to understand not to say something back in return."
-This article is written in my own words. The guideline for the 5 techniques is from entrepreneur.com