How To Become A Better Listener

Listening is the other half all communication, and arguably the best half. Unfortunately, most people rarely receive any formal training for how to do it properly. Improving your listening skills can have a positive impact on both your professional and personal lives. Follow these practical steps towards becoming a better listener, even in challenging situations where it's most important.

Listening is a critical skill.

  1. Master the basics of communicating. Talking is only one side of effective communication. We also need to be able to understand the messages that people are sending us.
  2. Build stronger relationships. Listening is a critical part of letting your family and friends know that you value and appreciate them. Many conflicts can be avoided if we work to understand each other's views.
  3. Develop/Advance your career. Practicing active listening will help you better understand employer's expectations and priorities so you make the best use of your time at work. Expressing a sincere interest in what your colleagues have to say is essential for fostering positive professional connections.
  4. Develop a stronger sense of emotional well-being. Many of the strategies involved in active listening are beneficial to your mental and emotional health. By minimizing distractions while listening, you can enhance your own peace of mind. Learning to empathize with others is a powerful antidote against anger.

General Tips for Effective Listening

  1. Ignore distractions. Listen intently to what the speaker has to say. If you notice your mind wandering, bring it back to the subject at hand.
  2. Make eye contact with the speaker. Let the speaker know you're interested. Having an appreciative audience makes it easier for people to express themselves. It will also help you stay alert.
  3. Listen for the main points. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to focus on understanding the key points rather than trying to memorize every word. Listen as though you were taking notes even if you're not.
  4. Hear people out. Allow people to speak freely without interruption. Concentrate on what they're saying rather than formulating your own response.
  5. Pretend you're doing an interview. Most people think much faster than they can talk. You can use this to your advantage by finding ways to keep your mind engaged if it's starting to run ahead. Analyze what the speaker is saying and draft questions that would help to clarify or elaborate on the main points.

How to Listen Effectively in Challenging Situations

  1. Encourage people to express themselves. Sometimes people are hesitant to approach a sensitive topic. In order to facilitate a more in-depth discussion, utilize open-ended questions and long pauses.
  2. Develop empathy. One of the best ways to understand what a person is really saying is to put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand their thinking and feelings.
  3. Cultivate a sense of empathy. When you're listening to something that evokes strong emotions, you may need to detach yourself temporarily from your feelings. Distinguishing between what is actually spoken and your own assumption and feelings is an important skill to have when communicating.
  4. Preparation is the key to success. Preparation is key if you’re going to be listening to a preparation on a difficult or unfamiliar subject. If you acquaint yourself with the basic facts, you're more likely to be able to keep up with a discussion of more specialized information.
  5. Make sure the message is correct. With complex or emotionally charged material, it's critical to listen attentively and verify what the other person is saying. You can repeat back a brief summary of the message to be sure you're both on the same page.

Becoming a better listener can enhance your own life and help you make a more positive contribution to the lives of others. Enjoy the many benefits of improving your listening skills.