6 Ways to Dramatically Increase Your Listening Skills
Good listening skills will get you far in life by improving your relationships, helping you connect with others more, and giving you the capacity to provide ultimate support for the ones you love. Good listening can also have a positive impact in your career, family, and overall happiness.
While many people think of communication as the words you speak, only the most successful people know exactly when not to speak and actively listen instead.
Here’s 6 ways you can dramatically increase your listening skills starting today:
1. Listen Visually
This might sound like odd advice, so let us explain.
Most of our communication is nonverbal. Our body language carries far more meaning than we realize. We’ll get into how to communicate through your own body language in the next lesson, but first, focus on reading the body language of the person in front of you.
Start by watching their facial expressions, which helps to give you a clue on the emotions behind the person's words. What emotions are behind their eyes? Are they smiling or is their mouth tense or downturned? Are they making eye contact, which means they’re confident in what they’re saying, or are they looking away, which means they might not truly stand behind their words?
By watching someone’s body language, you can better match it with their words to get an understanding of how they’re feeling and what they’re REALLY trying to say (especially if the words don’t match up with their body language!).
2. Be Fully Present
Being present and in the moment doesn’t just help you to catch everything the other person is saying. It also tells the other person that you care and that you’re attentive, and they’ll in turn communicate more of what they’re trying to say to you.
Make eye contact with the other person. Put away our smartphone and other digital devices. Mentally screen out background distractions, like the conversation at the table in the coffee shop behind you. And most importantly, be here mentally. That means shutting off your internal run-through of your to-do list, or your own thoughts or feelings about what is being said to you.
3. Create an Open, Non-Judgmental Space
So often, you listen through your own bias filter. You might find yourself thinking, "Well of course you did that, you do that all the time." Or maybe, "Well, that wasn't a very good idea."
Your internal critiques can cause you to miss what the person is truly trying to say. Leave your bias at the door, and listen actively without jumping to conclusions, trying to fix the scenario, or offering your criticism.
Simply allow the person to share what’s on their heart and mind.
4. Show That You Listened
As the other person speaks, try and remember key phrases and important points. Imagine that you’ll get quizzed at the end of the conversation. Make mental notes of what jumps out at you in the conversation.
When the other person is finished speaking, let him or her know that you were actively listening by mentioning back a few of the key points you heard. This is the perfect opportunity to also reach out and clarify anything that you’d like more information about.
It’s important to note that you should only ask questions to clarify or solicit more information, and not as a pointed way to offer your feedback or criticism.
5. Put Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to feel what they’re feeling. Imagine that what they’re telling you is something you have experienced yourself. Try and build empathy with the situation and the other person.
This can help you to better understand what’s being said to you. It can also help you connect on an emotional level with the words that you’re hearing, and it raises your ability to be fully present in the conversation.
6. Don’t Offer Advice Unless It’s Asked For
Remember, you’re here to listen. So often, people are quick to jump into providing solutions or fixing the problem. You might think you’re being helpful, but it’s only helpful if the other person asks for it.
A big part of being a successful communicator is knowing when to speak and when to be quiet. Communication is as much about what you don’t say as it is what you do say. By learning to listen and hold back from making the conversation about yourself, you strengthen your listening skills and build up a stronger portfolio of communication tools.
In closing, listening is critical for obtaining all the facts, understanding what’s going on around you, and receiving feedback on what we’re doing or saying.
If you follow the advice above, you’ll more satisfaction in your communication, and people will recognize you as a main supporter for them.
The famous Epictetus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
Do what you can to listen more today.
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