Listening is an integral part of the communication process but it is also the part that is overlooked most frequently. Many people spend a great deal of time polishing their speaking skills but put little or no effort into becoming a better listener. The art of listening really isn’t very difficult and you can improve your listening skills in just a few simple steps.
Perhaps the most important tip for being a better listener is to give the speaker your undivided attention. Be sure to concentrate on the speakers words and resist the temptations to tune out their message.
While speaking on the phone many people participate in other activities such as checking email, reading newspapers and other activities that distract from the conversation. Even in a face to face situation many listeners zone out by either thinking about their response to the speaker or daydreaming about something completely off topic.
By allowing yourself to be distracted, you are not listening as well as you could be. Even just a small amount of distraction could result in you missing a critical point of the speaker’s presentation. Focusing 100% on the speaker, however, will ensure that you are listening well and taking in all of the pertinent information.
Part of being a good listener is making sure that everything you hear comes directly from the speaker and not from your interpretation of their words. This means that as the speaker is talking, listen to the words as they are being spoken instead of trying to guess the point that the speaker is trying to make. Many people are guilty of jumping to conclusions this way and this hurts their listening ability.
People who do this often don’t hear the speaker’s message because it is blocked out by their own assumptions. Good listeners take in information as the words are spoken instead of thinking ahead and forming their own conclusions.
Creating mental images of the speaker’s words is another way to become a better listener. This visualization process allows you to really comprehend the words you are hearing. Visualization techniques can enhance the way that people process information. These mental images will help you to retain the information you have just heard and this enhanced comprehension makes you a better listener.
Asking questions that relate to the speaker’s presentation can also help you to become a better listener. It’s important to ask questions without allowing the formulation of the questions to interfere with your listening. If you latch onto one of the speaker’s key points and spend the rest of the conversation thinking up a question you will miss a lot of information.
However, if you ask your questions immediately when they arise, you can have them answered in the context of the presentation without having it affect your listening abilities. Asking questions is an important part of listening because it lets the speaker know that you are following what he is saying and that you are interested in learning more about the topic.
Being mindful of your body language is another way to be a good listener. Be sure to not engage in body language that tells the speaker that you are not interested in their words. Crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact and wincing are all ways that you can send a message to a speaker that you are not listening carefully to them. These mannerisms can result in the conversation being cut short because the speaker does not feel you are interested in what they are saying.
Practicing your listening skills is another way to become a better listener. Make a conscientious effort to apply your listening skills each time you speak to someone or attend a presentation.
You can practice your listening skills by remaining completely focused on the conversation or presentation, not trying to guess what the speaker is about to say, creating mental images of the spoken words and asking pertinent questions to affirm what you have just heard. Each time you have the opportunity to listen try to work on these elements.
While listening skills are not as widely practiced as speaking skills, they are just as important to a conversation. Being a good listener will not only ensure that you are receiving information but will affirm to the speaker that you care about the information being presented and that you understand their message.