In order to communicate well on must be able to listen well. Though easily acquired, few take the time to practice the simple skills involved. Being an effective listener offers a few key advantages.
* It can diffuse a volatile situation.
* it shows respect to the speaker.
* You just might learn something.
* It can lead to a revealing and interesting discussion.
* It is just good manners.
If you are lacking in the listening skills department, though, there are some things that you can start doing today to become a better listener. These tips can enable you to become a better listener and communicate at a higher level.
1. Make and maintain eye contact. Maintaining eye contact is an indication to the speaker that you are listening, but keep it at a level that is comfortable for both you and the speaker.
2. Face the person with whom you are communicating. When someone is talking to you, you can at least face them and give them the courtesy of looking at them. This indicates to them that you are listening and it eliminates potential distractions for you.
3. Get rid of distractions. Turn off the TV, put down the book, close the door and pay full attention to your speaker. Distractions can interfer with important pieces of what is being communicated to you. Your concentration should be on what the speaker is saying to you and you want to give them complete attention.
4. Let the speaker know that you are listening. Nod and give verbal acknowledgments appropriately. If you nod vigorously the entire time that the speaker is talking, it will distract both of you and indicate to them that you are not really listening at all. A simple, “yes,” or “uh huh” suffice.
5. Think about what the speaker is saying, not what you are going to say next. Many times it is a natural tendency to think about what you are going to say when someone else is talking. You may be formulating your rebuttal to what the person is saying. In doing so you will most certainly miss some vital information if you aren’t really listening.
6. Do not interrupt. You should not interrupt for several reasons. Firstly, you may be missing part of what is being said when you interupt. Secondly, it points out you are not really listening. Lastly, it is rude and annoying. If you have to grab a piece of paper and take notes about what is said, do it, and the address your concerns when it is your time to talk.
7. Maintain an open mind When the speaker says something that goes against your beliefs, your mind may want to scream in protest, but try to keep an open mind and listen to their defense and argument. You just might learn something.
8. Ask questions to make sure that you understand. Ask questions to clarify what is being said. This way you can make sure that you understand what the speaker is saying.
9. Keep your body language neutral. Crossing your arms, putting your hands on your hips and turning away from the speaker are all indications that you are not listening, thus hindering your own ability to listen effectively. Keep your arms down at your sides and lean your body slightly in toward the speaker. Doing so increases your ability to listen and shows the speaker that you are listening and paying attention.
10. Realize that sometimes just listening is enough. Sometimes people just want to be heard without any response. Remember that it is OK to just listen from time to time.