In these days of instant- instant- instant, humans now have an average eight-second attention span. You’re going to need to lengthen your attention span if you want to get things done.
Have you ever “zoned out” while someone is talking? Sure your response would be yes. With electronic distractions competing for your time and an abundance of responsibilities at work, it makes listening attentively to someone else pretty difficult.
Listening seems harder to do because we’re often consumed with ourselves.
Why is listening critical?
When you approach a conversation thinking only of your own agenda, your ultimate goal will be to manoeuvre and manipulate the conversation and to come out better than the other person.
It has become critical to pay attention to other people’s thoughts, emotions, words, feelings, and perspectives as it opens you to new information that you’re not looking for but need to know.
Genuine listening is a rare gift that helps build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts, and improve accuracy. With a good listening ability, at work, there’ll be fewer errors and less wasted time. At home, it helps develop resourceful, self-reliant children who can solve their own problems and can save money and marriages.
Here’s how you can become a better listener….
Listen to learn, not to be polite:
Often, whether realizing it or not, people listen to each other out of generosity, not out of curiosity. Listening is good, but the underlying intent has to be curiosity, not generosity. An impactful dialogue does not happen when we pretend to listen, and it certainly cannot happen if we are not listening at all.
Here’s a tip; If we ever finish a conversation and learned nothing new, then we weren’t really listening in the first place.
Face the speaker and maintain eye contact:
Don’t you find it difficult keeping conversation with someone while they scan the room, study a computer screen, or gaze out the window? In developed cultures, eye contact is considered a basic ingredient of effective communication. When both parties come together with curiosity the desire for better communication pulls them together. Put aside papers, books, your smartphone and other distractions and look at them, even if they don’t reciprocate. Shyness, uncertainty, shame, guilt, or other emotions, along with cultural taboos, can inhibit eye contact in some people under some circumstances. If that disturbs you, please ask the person why s/he is avoiding eye contact and learn to manage the situation as long as the person shows s/he is listening.
Quiet your agenda:
You can control your listening level by quieting down your mind. Listen to what someone else is trying to say without thinking of how to reply or how to ensure your point is passed across. That way, you do not lose the conversation because you were having another discussion in your thoughts.
Keep an open mind:
Listen and at the same time judging the other person or mentally criticizing the things compromises your effectiveness as a listener. Remember that the speaker is using language to represent thoughts and feelings. You don’t know what those thoughts and feelings are and the only way you’ll find out is by listening.
Don’t interrupt and don’t impose:
Children should not be the only ones taught not to interrupt because it is rude. We all think and speak at different rates. If you are a quick thinker and an agile talker, the job is on you to relax your pace for the slower, more thoughtful communicator or for the guy who has trouble expressing himself.
Ask more questions:
One of the simplest ways to be a better listener is to ask more questions than you give answers. When you ask questions, you create a safe space for other people to give you their truth. It also clarifies doubts and misconceptions that you have harboured. Rather than assume and cause conflict, ask questions.
Try to empathize with the speaker:
If you mirror and convey the feelings of the speaker through your facial expressions and words—then your effectiveness as a listener is great. Empathy is the heart and soul of good listening. Simply put yourself in the other person’s place and allow yourself to feel what it is like to be her/him at that moment. Although it might not be an easy thing to do, it facilitates communication like nothing else does.
Show you’re listening through regular feedback:
The idea is to give the speaker some proof that you are listening, and that you are following his/her train of thought.
Repeat what you heard to the speaker:
The basic concept here is to confirm to the speaker if what was said was what was heard. If the speaker agrees that what you heard is what he or she intended to say, you can move on. If not, the speaker needs to reword their statement until the listener really does understand.
Pay attention to what isn’t said (nonverbal cues):
We communicate a great deal of information about each other without saying a word. Even when speaking over the telephone, you can learn almost as much about a person from the tone of the voice. When you’re speaking face to face with a person, you can detect comfort, boredom, enthusiasm or irritation very quickly with the expression around the eyes, the set of the mouth, the slope of the shoulders. These are clues you can’t ignore. Ask questions and adjust your attitude- maybe the problem is from you.
Call to action:
At the end of every major or even seemingly minor conversation, ask yourself; “what have I learned or did I understand the message of the speaker?” Doing this consistently will not only ensure accurate follow-through. It will also help you become a natural listener.
Has there ever been a time you lost something or made a grave mistake because you did not listen? Please share with us in the comment section.