Effective listening at home, work, and at school helps resolve conflicts, build trust, strengthen teams, and inspire people. Listening effectively to others will help you to grasp and absolve the exact information. It will help to build a strong foundation and minimize errors. These tips will help you to develop effective listening skills.
1. Be sincerely interested in the speaker.
Active listening is an act of respect, not just a technique or a skill. When you have a genuine interest in what someone is saying, listening becomes more natural. Also, it will be easier to understand the whole information and to respond appropriately.
2. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
When someone is talking to us, and at the same time, we scan the surroundings, gaze out the window, or focus on a computer screen, the person will assume we are disinterested in what they are trying to say.
In many cultures, maintaining eye contact is vital to communicate effectively. It goes to show, both parties are listening to each other and are focused. Scanning around a room or looking at the window is okay during a conversation, but it would be best; it doesn’t happen for a long time. Just a quick look around is okay.
3. Be attentive to the speaker.
If your colleague, friend, or spouse has something important to say to you and your mind is on other things, it’s better not to pretend to listen. Instead, ask the speaker to hold on or wait until you’re able to give him your undivided attention. Either you do it this way, or you put aside what’s on your mind and give the speaker your complete attention.
Try not to stare fixedly at the person you’re talking to. You can look away now and then during the conversation. The important thing is to be relaxed and focused.
Mentally screen out diversions, like background activities and noises. Also, try not to focus on the speaker’s pronunciation or speech mannerisms. Focusing too much on this may lead to distraction. In addition, don’t be distracted by your own feelings and sentiments.
4. Keep an open mind
Listen without mentally criticizing the things you hear from the other person or jumping to a conclusion even before the person gets the discussion halfway. As soon as you write off the person’s argument based on your judgment, you’ve compromised your effectiveness as a listener.
Also, try not to help finish the person’s sentence, even if you’re 100 percent sure of where the discussion is going. Doing that may sometimes lead you to the wrong ending, which may be embarrassing for you at the end. The quality you need as an effective listener here is patience.
Be patient. Listen to the end before acting. Make sure you get the complete information. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you, try to view it from the other person’s angle. Maybe then, you’ll realize why it goes that way.
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5. Picture what the speaker is saying.
Create a mental picture of the information you absolved in your mind. Whether a literal picture or an arrangement of complex concepts, your brain will do the necessary work if you stay concentrated, with full senses on alert. When listening for long stretches, try to remember keywords and phrases.
When it’s your turn to listen, forget every other thing you may be thinking or how you planned to respond. Rehearsing and listening at the same time will only distract you from getting the correct information. Think and focused only on what the other person is saying. Even if it is boring, try not to allow your thoughts to wander off.
6. Don’t interrupt the speaker.
When the other person is speaking, try as much as possible to resist the urge to interrupt or disagree. Eventually, it will be your turn to speak. For now, it’s your turn to listen. So just listen.
There is a common saying that it is rude to interrupt a conversation or disturb someone when they’re talking. Interrupting someone only sends the wrong message across to the person. It’s more like whatever the other person is saying is not relevant, accurate, and it’s boring. And if the person you’re interrupting refuses to get interrupted, it will result in loud voices or even a huge argument. In the end, no one will benefit from the discussion.
We all think and speak at different rates. Everyone has different ways of expressing themselves. Some are slow; others are fast. Some like to think carefully during a conversation as they talk, while others already cram all that they will say and just go out there and spill it out without a break.
So its better to listen attentively and be patient when others are talking. Refrain from suggesting your own solutions. If someone wants a piece of advice or your suggestion on a certain matter, they will ask for it. Try not to advise without being asked. Also, be sure to wait until they finish speaking.
7. Wait for a suitable time to ask questions.
When you don’t understand something, you can ask the speaker to clarify things to you. But it would be best to wait until the speaker pauses before you ask your question. Then you can quickly chip in something like, “can I quickly ask you a question?” “or hold on a second, can you please explain what you mean by…”
8. Ask questions only to ensure understanding.
Asking questions will make you better able to understand what the other person is saying. It tells the other person you’re interested in what he is saying. What’s important is, don’t jump into the conversation in mid-sentence. Wait for the appropriate time to chip in your thoughts.
A colleague is excitedly telling you about a football match she watched recently. While still narrating her story, then you jump in the middle of it and say, “Oh Its been a while. I watched Manchester United play. Their last match was absolutely terrible”. And from there, both of you start discussing about Manchester United for almost an hour. Whereas, the football match she watched wasn’t even related to Manchester United. Her exciting experience comes to a pause, and another discussion took precedence.
You can see why it’s very important to listen to the end without causing an unnecessary obstruction or assuming we know the dimension the conversation will take. When we interrupt others, we mostly make the conversation take a different turn from the main topic. If we noticed our interruption led the discussion to a different dimension, we could go back on track by saying, “so you’re talking about this football match, please tell me more about it.
9. Pay attention to the message, not just the words.
To Develop effective listening skills, you must pay attention to body language, eye movement, and tone of voice when listening. Sometimes words may convey a different message from the real meaning. Take for example:
- “That’s okay” might really mean “That’s not okay“ depending on the intonation the other person used.
- “You never offer to assist me” might really mean “I think I did not matter to you.”
Try to get the real message beyond the words, even if you didn’t hear the exact phrase. Otherwise, you may end up arguing over what was said instead of focusing on what the person really meant.
10. Don’t make assumptions.
When you assume there is a hidden message behind the speaker, you will draw wrong conclusions. For example, your colleague may say: “I noticed that you came so late to work today.” and you respond, “What kind of question is that? Is it my fault the road was blocked?” I wasn’t accusing you; everyone came late today.” your colleague responds. Your colleague’s original intention was that she’s just trying to make a conversation with you about the morning traffic, which affects everyone.
Conclusively, genuine listening to someone helps build relationships, resolve conflicts, ensure understanding, and improve accuracy. (1) The steps in this article will help you develop effective listening skills at the workplace and the home.