“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” Bryant H. McGill
We live in a noisy world. Whether it’s in real life or the virtual one, everyone is busy trying to be heard, but no one really takes the time to listen. The result is an endless chain of hasty reactions instead of heartfelt responses, and as we all know well enough, such reactions are often aggressive and even abusive. It’s no wonder then that these very people complain about the world becoming an intolerant and violent place. If only we took half the effort to actually listen to one another!
Well, that is easier said than done, considering that most of us don’t even know how to listen! If you think that listening is a basic human function that should come naturally to us, you’re confusing listening with hearing. Listening is much more than vibrations landing on our ear drums; it’s about connecting with the speaker on a deep level.
Listening well has a wide range of benefits and improves communication in all your relationships. As a result, you’ll find yourself becoming a better spouse, a better parent, a better employee and most importantly – a better human being. Here are 7 easy ways to be a better listener and actually get in touch with the feelings behind the words.
7 Ways To Be A Better Listener
This is the very first commandment of trying to do anything with focus, and not just listening! Switch off your smart phone or at least put it in another room. Turn off the TV, close that book and remove your earphones. Reschedule any impending appointments. If you know for sure that you won’t be able to give the speaker your single minded focus, it makes more sense to tell them the truth than listen halfheartedly.
Maintain Eye Contact
There’s something behind the saying that one’s ‘eyes are the windows to the soul’. Maintaining good eye contact with the person you’re having a conversation with is a sure sign that you’re interested in what he or she has to say and that you’re paying attention. It is also fundamental to building trust between the speaker and the listener. That said, do blink and take a break occasionally; you don’t want to end up glaring or staring with a glazed look.
Understand Body Language
When we speak of body language with regards to listening, it applies to both the speaker and the listener. A good listener will be able to watch out for signs in the speaker’s body signals – they often convey a lot more than words will. Your body language as a listener also plays a role. Extending your feet in the direction of the speaker, leaning in and nodding occasionally are encouraging signs. On the other hand, slouching, fidgeting or crossing your hands indicates your disinterest in the conversation.
Imagine you’ll have to repeat this Conversation
By no means do we recommend betraying the speaker’s confidence, but imagining that you have to repeat this conversation can make you a better listener. Remember how pretending to teach helped us learn better as kids? The same principle applies here. This technique will help you pay more attention to details, understand the flow of the speaker’s thoughts and organize them better.
When your speaker is pouring his heart out or giving her views on an important matter, constant interruptions from the listener’s end can be a nuisance. Not only do they disrupt the speaker’s train of thought and flow of speech, it may give the impression that you’re simply creating a distraction because you’re bored.
Ask Intelligent Questions
This may sound contrary to the earlier point, but it’s just as important! A strong sign of being a good listener is to know when to be quiet and when to say something. The best kind of question is the open ended kind, which prompt the speaker to organize her feelings better. Summarizing the speaker’s thoughts so far is also a great technique, as it shows that you’ve been paying attention. It may also encourage the speaker to open up a little more.
Sometimes it can be really hard to avoid feeling judgmental about something your speaker is saying, but being objective is what separates the excellent listener from the mediocre one! Always be respectful, and try to understand the speaker’s point of view. Rather than focusing on specific phrases or statements, try to look at the complete picture, which will give you a better idea of where the speaker is coming from.
This list may seem a little overwhelming to some of us, but you don’t need to try everything at once! This list of ways to be a better listener is roughly ordered from easy to difficult, so you can start by eliminating distractions when you listen. As you slowly make progress, you’ll soon find your relationships improving. More importantly, you’ll see that you’ve become more empathetic and understanding and are no longer quick to pass judgment on others. If everyone tried listening well, imagine what a wonderful world we’d have!