Although listening seems to be a simple process, many of us are more eager to talk than listen. A wise man once said, we were given one mouth and two ears for a reason. From the beginning of time up to date, communication has been the most important business skill. This is because without effective listening skills, there is no understanding of business needs, client needs, and employee needs. For proper communication to be attained, everyone must be heard. We should now ask how to improve listening skills? Within this write up are active listening techniques to improve listening skills.
Importance of Developing Effective Listening Skills
Being a good listener will assist you in seeing the world through the eyes of another person. This will not only expand your capacity for empathy but it will also enrich your understanding. It highly improves your communication skills thereby increasing your contact with the outside world. Listening may seem simple, but doing it particularly when disagreements arise, takes a lot of practice and personal effort.
A lot of people frustrate because they feel that they are not being listened to. This frustration has been the cause of about 80% of trouble amongst mankind. In today’s high speed, high-tech, and high stress world, communication is even more important than ever; yet a lot of us tend to devote less and less time listening to others. Now our days, unpretentious listening which is the gift of time for mankind has become a rare gift. Effective listening skills help to build relationships, resolve problems, conflicts, improve accuracy, and enhance understanding.
At work, effective listening avoids time wastage and also eliminates errors. At home, effective listening helps to develop resourceful and self-reliant kids who can efficiently solve their own personal problems. Since the beginning of time, effective listening has built careers and friendships. It has led to the success of uncountable men and women thereby creating room for many seek on how to be a better listener? It has saved the lives and souls of many, saves money and marriages every year.
It has prevented nations from going into war with one another. It has brought peace in the hearts of many. It has greatly improved on industrialisation and human development. It helps preserve traditions and cultural activities. A lot of people are quite good at speaking. They tell their stories and inspire others. It should however be noted that being a better listener is often more important than speaking. However, speaking should not be ignored for it still has a place in our world. Listening helps you to get a better understanding about someone’s situation whether sad or joyous. It helps you to better figure out what words are better to use and those to avoid.
Successful entrepreneurs can likely benefit from effective listening just as much as speaking. This is the main reason why a lot of entrepreneurs seek how to improve listening skills of their employees. Effective listening skills are being used to obtain information, gain understanding, and to learn. If you are a better listener, you will benefit from an improved productivity, influence, persuasion and greater negotiation skills. You will end up with great improvements in communication and reports.
Communication experts have spent a lot of time learning ‘’active listening techniques’’. It has to do with personal and deliberate efforts to listen to and better comprehend what another person is saying. It is quite challenging to listen actively; but easier to fall back to the old habit of listening passively. That means hearing all the words but not making effort to understand what the speaker is struggling to pass across. However, failing to understand what is being said would likely lead to costly mistakes with your vendors, customers, and employees. Here are effective tips on how to be a better listener and promote effective communication in the society.
Get into the other persons shoes
This is one of the active listening techniques. It’s quite easy getting lost in yourself. In a conversation open out and look at the problem from the other person’s point of view. You have to put yourself in their shoes and assume that if you were in their position you would have reached that same conclusion. Do not try to see yourself through the problem any faster than them. Being a good listener can help you make friendship with those you carefully listen to since you tend to better know them. Always remember that you have two ears and only one mouth for a special reason. This means that you are naturally called upon to be listening more than talking. If you are wondering how to be a better listener, always place yourself in the position of the other person who wants to be heard. Experience has proven that it is more beneficial to listen than to talk. Everyone knows that talking can easily get them into serious trouble whereas it is not the case with listening. Whenever you are listening to a person, make sure you engage in the conversation and make a full eye contact, this will assure them that you care about what they are saying. Even if you do not care, it remains a polite manner of behaving. Those who give more importance to listening are generally more observant, thoughtful, and have a better understanding of things. Always make sure you are listening and not carrying out a different activity. Make sure that you completely focus on the person that is talking. Avoid getting side-tracked. See on to it that you are making eye contact with the person and not an object around or something else. Instead of precipitating to judge the person who is speaking, or immediately bring up a solution you find best at the moment, just take the necessary time to listen and look at the situation from the other person’s point of view. This is what you should always do before concluding.
Pay attention to body language
A greater deal of communication takes part through body movements and positions. This means that you need to pay even greater attention to all the signals that the person is making.. However, as a listener, pay proper attention to your own body language. Your body language can cause the speaker to wrongly or rightly interpret it as a sign of less concern. This can end up causing serious detrimental consequences in your relationship. If a listener is grinning during a sad story, it likely communicates that he or she is unattached to the conversation and focusing only on personal self. If you are really concerned about the speaker then the active listening technique here entails you sit up, lean forward and maintain full eye contact with the speaker.
Give an encouraging sign to show that you are listening
One of the ways on how to be a better listener is nodding frequently to encourage the speaker and assure him or her that you are paying attention to what they are saying. You can as well smile or react with words like ‘’right’’ and ‘’yes’’ to assure your full engagement into the conversation. This will tell the speaker that you are listening and are willing to listen more.
Avoid comparing the speaker’s experience to yours
Many people think that the best way to listen is to have a comparison chart that discloses the speaker’s experience with theirs. By thinking this way, they are very far from the truth. A good example here is comparing a friend’s divorce with your uncomfortable 3-month long relationship. You might be doing so while thinking that you are helping, but such comparisons are quite reductive. They might likely make the person feel that you are not really paying attention or understanding their situation at all. If the person feels and believes that you had previously experienced the same thing, then he or she will likely ask your opinion. You should avoid using personal pronouns like ‘’I’’ or ‘’me’’ for they will only communicate to the person talking to you that you are focusing more on yourself and not on the situation at hand.
We are presently living in a society that is full of distractions. Because we spend most of our time listening to a lot of noise, it has become challenging to listen to a person. If you are looking on how to be a better listener, then you should always avoid being distracted in front of the speaker. Whether it’s merely your phone, side conversation, or a beautiful lady passing by, it should be noted that splitting your attention between the speaker and another thing will signify that you are uninterested in the conversation. In most cases, we fail to listen, instead we struggle to wait for our own turn to speak. If you spend your time anticipating what the other person will say and preparing a robust response, it means that you are not having a conversation. Evading distractions has been one of the most effective listening skills but very difficult to implement.
Never interrupt your speaker
Even if it happens that the speaker is voicing out something that you highly disagree, stay calm and listen keenly. Wait for a tactful and an opportune moment to voice out your disagreement. Improve listening skills by practicing not to interrupt the speaker. Always get all what he says and try to make a meaning out of it. Listening does not mean you are bound to agree with the speaker, you can as well disagree and bringing forth your own personal points of view.
Keep aside immediate help
If you are seeking on how to improve listening skills, then you should keep aside immediate help. A lot of people think that when they are listening, they should also have all their gears turning to find an easy and quick solution to the person’s problem then and there. This approach is quite wrong. Many persons take quick decisions they later regret why they did and are usually unable to fulfil them. Nevertheless, while a person is speaking, you can be thinking of an immediate solution if the person really wants to be helped instantly. It should however be noted that if you start thinking of solutions the moment that the person is speaking, you will no longer focus on listening. At first glance, it is recommended to focus yourself in absorbing all that the person has to say. It is only after that you can really try to assist or help the person.
Keep offhand as much as you can of what you’ve been told
One of the effective listening skills is fully absorbing the information the speaker tells you. A good example is the case were a speaker is telling you of her problems with her close friend, Desemond, and you’ve never met him before, to show your attention, you can at least remember his name so that you can refer to him that way. This will show the speaker that you are better acquitted with the situation at hand. If you tend not to remember any name, details or special events then it seems you were not listening at all. It’s true you don’t have to remember all the details but you do not also want the person speaking to feel they have to repeat the same things over a million times. So you should pick up some details, thus indicating an active listening technique.
Go beyond simply hearing the person speak
If you are seeking on how to improve listening skills, then go beyond merely offering an ear to a conversation. In order to show that you really care and that you understood the person when he or she spoke, ask about the situation when next you meet with the person. You can as well decide to send him a text or a phone call to find out what has become of the situation. If it tends to be something serious like an impending divorce, health complication, job search, then it becomes very nice checking in even when you have not been asked to. If they do not want you to follow up, do not be upset, simply let them know that you are always there to support them. If it was an open minded person who talked to you he would be deeply touched that you made the extra effort of thinking about him after the conversation. This goes far beyond the question on how to improve listening skills. It should be noted that there is a difference between following up and nagging the person. An example is observed in the situation were a person tells you he or she would be quitting her job, you won’t shoot text messages daily asking if he or she has already done so. This would merely put in unnecessary pressure that won’t help in any way but only cause stress.
Do just the right things during a discussion
Actually know what not to do during a discussion can tend to be very good as knowing what to do. If you want any speaker to take you serious in a discussion and also believe you are respectful, you should avoid the following:
Do not interrupt a speaker in the middle of a point;
- Always avoid sayings like ‘’you’ll feel better in the morning’’ or ‘’it is not the end of the world’’ because it would minimise the person’s problem and make them feel quite bad;
- Do not interrogate the person. Instead you should gently ask questions when it is necessary to do so; and
- Do not try to change the subject matter even if it is a little uncomfortable.
Active listening techniques incorporate various listening strategies thereby giving a positive feedback to the speaker that the listener clearly understands all what is being said. The active listening techniques are commonly used in counselling, but can also help in professional and personal communication. By using one’s own body language to demonstrate attentiveness to a speaker, you become an active listener. You can as well work hard to develop your empathy to better understand where a person is coming from together with their emotions.
One of the main active listening techniques is by focusing your attention on the speaker. This will encourage the speaker to share more personal information with you and also help you remember a lot of details concerning the conversation. Generally, a person is more likely to dive deeper into conversation if they believe the other person is listening. The environment also matters; the listening ability is better in a quite area where there are no distractions. If possible switch off all musical instruments and also put away your phone. Active listening techniques require more focus than the usual listening we do in our day-to-day lives. Active listening skills however need a lot of practice which can be achieved by those determined to.
Make the other person believe that you are ready to listen
This is one of the effective listening skills which is also active listening whereby you maintain a natural physical stance that makes you appear receptive and open to hearing what the other person has to say. Always think of the acronym SOLER, it will help you remember what open body language looks like. You can show the person that you are present and attentive by squarely facing him or her. An Open posture is being assured by keeping your arms on the side or in your labs. Avoid crossing your arms or turning your body away. Always Lean towards the speaker if you are sitting and maintain a full Eye with the speaker throughout the conversation. You are also requested to Relax while actively listening to a speaker, otherwise he or she might feel tense.
Maintain an eye contact with the speaker
Although many persons really feel uncomfortable maintaining eye contact, it is important and you will find it easy with practice. It’s just alright to break eye contact, but remember not to stare the speaker down. A lot of eye contact can be unnerving. This is why you should include natural breaks which will include watching their hand gestures, looking away as if deep in thought and looking where they are pointing. If you find that making eye contact with a person is difficult, kindly look somewhere on their face say their forehead. In order to encourage to speaker to continue speaking, you can nod.
Transfer attentiveness merely through your voice
At times, very important conversations happen over the phone or in the car, or some other places where showing attention with your body language is impossible. In such cases, you can easily convey your listening by interjecting minimal encouraging words. These are words that indicate you are attentive and carefully listening to what they are saying. You could say things like ‘’yes’’, ‘’mm-mmh’’, ‘’I see’’, or ‘’oh’’.
This is another active listening technique whereby the listener struggles to understand and feel what the speaker is feeling. This technique is very important in active listening because it helps you to name and identify the other person’s feelings. This will guarantee them that you are listening and also understanding them. It does not stand for agreement nor pity but a form of deep understanding you show to another person.
Conclusively, it is better to be a listener than a speaker. Although many think the most intelligent persons are those who speak much, there is wisdom in silence. Talking much can lead one into some unintended errors and regrets, because you may say things you did not really intend to. Furthermore, a good listener is also often listened to.
One learns more and better by being an effective listener. Thus, while listening, remember to respect cultural, religious values of others.