While communicating, we mostly focus on what we would say when the other person stops talking. We are constantly forming our own responses in our minds and in the process we don’t pay full attention to what the other person is saying. We often put a lot of effort in sharpening our speaking ability and practically ignore the significance of listening skills. Active listening, which is more than just hearing,is as important as speaking. In business, it is the key to effective work relationships. Be it your employees, or the management or your customers, good listening skills can positively impact your interactions. Everyone wants to be heard and understood and if you can provide them with that very opportunity by listening to them carefully, you would be rewarded with loyalty and trust. Let’s discuss a few techniques to improve your listening skills:
You cannot multitask while listening. For active listening, whether on phone or in-person, your full concentration must be on the conversation. Avoid texting or thinking about a side conversation. Maintain eye contact with the person who is talking and pay full attention to what he says. Your body language also matters. Consistent eye contact or nodding communicates interest, focus and understanding. However, also tailor your eye contact according to the speaker. If the speaker is shy or anxious, you can cut back your eye contact and focus on listening.
2. Understand the Speaker
Even if you do not have much interest in what the other person is saying, understand the fact that what he is saying is important to him. Understand the speaker’s need to be heard and understood. Put an effort to comprehend why and what they are saying. Try to understand their situations, what struggles they are facing and what they are going through. Putting an effort to listen to what people have to say is indeed appreciable.
3. Be Curious, Not Judgmental
Being curious can make your conversations a learning opportunity. You can always find something to learn from a conversation and must see every person having a potential to teach something. You must be open to new ideas and thoughts, and need to understand that your own way of seeing things is not the only way or the best way. Being curious and open minded will help you improve your listening skills which would pave the way for self-development.
4. Open Questions
Ask open questions to encourage long and thoughtful answers. Closed questions which can be answered in ‘yes’ or ‘no’ give an impression that you only want some specific information from the speakers. Or, you have limited time for them. Asking open questions shows your interest in what they are saying and your desire to engage in a good conversation.
5. Note the Key Points
When a person speaks for a long time, we often find it difficult to focus on what he is saying. Our attention tends to drift away during long conversations. In such situations, try to pick up the key points of the conversation. After they finish talking, you can mention those points to let them know that you were paying attention. If you missed anything, you can ask them for further explanation on specific key points. The speaker won’t mind repeating some of his points if he believes that you made an honest effort to listen to him.
Summarizing or paraphrasing is a great way of demonstrating that you are listening carefully and it is considered an excellent communication skill. Paraphrasing is all about understanding what the speaker is exactly trying to say. Not only it helps you improve your listening skills, it also helps to prevent misunderstanding during conversations.
7. Practice Listening
Focusing completely on what the other person is saying and not thinking about what would be your response needs practice. You can sit with your friends or family and listen to them closely. You can also give them feedback on what they said which would further help you strengthen your listening skills. Practice makes it much easier to maintain your focus only on listening and understanding and not worrying about your own response.
For every interaction, you need to develop curiosity and genuine interest in others. It is the key to effective listening and helps a lot in making communications more effective.