Are you listening?….

You’re speaking to a friend and the response you get when you ask a question to confirm something you hear “What did you say again?”Well, that person was not listening and this happens to so many people, every days, unknowing to them that listening is a skill that must be honed.

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Let’s begin by busting a misconception; If you think that to become a good communicator you have to focus on becoming a great speaker, it’s time you think again. Listening is just as important as speaking in the communication process. It doesn’t matter what place in life you’re at – an employee, a manager, a parent, or a client, being great at listening is a crucial workplace skill.

What is listening?

Listening is giving your attention to sound and interpreting what you hear. The process involves initially hearing a sound, identifying it, and then processing its meaning.

What is hearing?

Hearing is an effortless act that happens involuntarily. It is simply our senses perceiving a sound. 

While listening may seem like an involuntary act, the process has more steps than most people think.

Reasons for lack of listening skills among people ranges from; an internal dialogue of the listener, daydreaming or a pre-conceived bias against either the speaker or the topic that shuts the ears to what’s being said.

Whatever the reasons we struggle with being good listeners, honing that skill can have a lot of benefits. Here are five tips on improving your listening skills;

Be attentive:

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This is sometimes easier said than done but is something you can work on with constant and deliberate practice.  Make sure you are actively listening instead of just hearing the words of the speaker. Show your interest by sitting up straight and making eye contact with the speaker, possibly at all times.

Keep an open mind:

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It is important to be open to new ideas especially, if information being presented to you may be foreign and unfamiliar. Try to keep the negative criticism to a minimum. Once you go down that mental road because it’s hard to turn around when it starts.

Build relationships: 

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You find it easy with people you’re familiar with. So, try to build positive relationships and resolve conflicts as soon as possible. It has been proven that as communications improve among people in a shared environment, so will their teamwork, leading to increased productivity and business.

Don’t interrupt the speaker:

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Except the speaker asks you to interrupt anytime, it is considered rude to speak without permission. Also, it proves to the speaker that you were focused on what you wanted to say, rather than what they were saying to you. Constantly interrupting someone implies a boatload of negative qualities in a person, and you don’t want to make the wrong impression.

Empathize with the speaker:

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Put yourself right in the speaker’s shoes. Here’s what you can do; if they’re talking about something exciting, look excited. If it is a sad topic, don’t sit there smiling from ear to ear. Identify what the speaker is feeling and do your best to match it.

Keeping these tips and others that work for you in mind will help you become a more effective listener, which in turn helps you become a really good communicator.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments. Don’t be shy share them in the comments section.

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