Listening is a skill, some would even say a virtue. In my experience, people love to be heard. They enjoy when people really listen to them, and feel valued and understood. Most of us think we are good listeners, but I’m not so sure. Are we really listening to the speaker; focusing on their words; trying to understand? Or, more often than we would like to admit, does our mind wander, and we start daydreaming?
Here’s my take on why and how to listen.
- To obtain information
- To understand
- To learn
- To improve relationships with our colleagues, friends and families
- To help others feel included or feel valued
- To provide an insight into others behaviors and beliefs so you can better understand them
How to listen:
- Try not be distracted by others and everything that is going on around you
- Try to focus on listening to understand rather than formulating your response in your mind while you listen
- Look at the person while they are speaking, let them know you are engaging with what they say.
- Don’t allow yourself to drift off, try to catch yourself doing it and consciously re-engage
- If you’re having trouble concentrating on listening, try mentally repeating what the person is saying
- Use body language such as nodding your head or smiling to show that you are listening. Or, you can simply say ‘mmm’ or ‘yes’ to demonstrate that you are listening. It doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with what is being said, just shows that you are listening. You are acknowledging the speaker
- Ask a question or make a comment along the way to get the speaker to keep talking and open up, which helps you really understand them
- Try not to interrupt or counter argue while the person is speaking. Hold on to those until the person has finished
Next time you are listening, try to become aware of yourself and see if your mind is wandering? Bring it back and try focusing on listening to understand.