Listening Skills – Are You A Good Listener?

Listening Skills – Are You A Good Listener?

A re you a good listener? Everyone considers me an excellent listener.  I have always brushed off their compliments so I don’t get all puffed up with pride.  But seriously, why exactly do they think I’m a good listener?   Read on to find out. 

Most people are born with two functioning ears to listen with, but sadly, not many actively engage their God-given hearing devices.  For those trying to communicate something, it can be frustrating when the other person does not acknowledge they heard you!  Don’t be like those that frustrate others.  Learn to listen.

Listening is a more than a sensory function it’s a critical and highly valuable skill.  Good listening can improve a tense work environment or a rocky personal relationship.  It’s a universal skill, that one can develop if they choose to, that can bring about wonderful benefits in either the professional or personal life.  When someone listens as you speak, you feel accepted, important, valued, and understood.  Who would not want to feel those things?

What is listening and why is it important? Listening is calming your thoughts and focusing your attention the one who’s speaking.  It is not thinking about how you’re going to respond.   You show respect and honor to a person when you’re listening.  It also demonstrates you think what they’re saying is important.  You may be validating the person by listening to them.  Did you ever think you may be building someone’s self-confidence by listening?  You could be.  Listening is also beneficial for building a credible reputation.  The more you listen, the more others will listen to what you have to say.  Those are just a few reasons why listening is important.  

How does one listen?  Before we answer the how does one listen, let’s look at what listening is not.  First off, listening is not about you.  That can be a difficult concept for some self-absorbed folks.  You know who I’m talking about too.  The ones who love to talk and often times fail to listen because they’re so busy trying to get their point across.  It’s difficult to be around folks like that.  So avoid being like them.  Remember, you can’t listen if your mind is busy trying to figure out what you plan to say next.  Listening is all about the other person.  Stop and think about conversations you’ve had in the past.  Who seemed the most interested in what you said?  What was it about them that caused you to think they were interested?   Try implementing some of those things in your conversations. Back to the opening question in this paragraph – how do you listen?  With your ears, of course!  But you also listen with your mind.   

How do you know when someone is listening? One way to tell is by reading a person’s body language.   If you want the other person to know you’re listening try some of these techniques.
1) If you and the other person are sitting down around a conference table, by lending forward towards the person speaking, your body language signals interest in what’s being said. 
2) Don’t fold your arms in front of you, because that indicates you’re not open to the ideas being discussed.
3) Using direct eye contact with the speaker signals interest also.  Look the speaker in the eye.  However, if that’s uncomfortable for you, try looking at their forehead instead.  The speaker will sense you looking at them, but they won’t know you’re looking at their forehead.  This works for the speaker as well.
4) Tilting your head to one side or the other also demonstrates your focusing on what’s being discussed.

Another way to tell if someone is truly listening is whether they use any interjections or not.  What I mean is, if they say “hmm”, “uh ha”, “I see what you mean” or “I can relate” type of statements.  Asking questions, at the appropriate time, also shows interest.  Paraphrasing is a technique that works well too.  Have you ever had someone paraphrase something you’ve said?  It’s an easy way to show you’re listening because you actually take what you heard and put it into your own words and say it back to the person you heard it from.  When these techniques are used it’s a great way to offer assurance that someone’s, in fact, listening. 

On the other hand, it’s fairly easy to know when you’ve lost your audience.  Have you ever experienced your audience never saying a thing, not looking at you, being busy doing emails on their computer during the meeting, or sleeping while you’re talking?  That’s a pretty good clue they are not really listening to you. 

But what if I’m not really interested?  We’ve all ran across the scenario when we have to listen to a not so interesting topic.  Unfortunately, it’s part of life sometimes.  That doesn’t mean we should be rude and not listen.  It just means we need to try harder to focus on listening.  When you find yourself in a situation like this, there are a few tricks to help you through it. 
1) Remember, when we listen we show respect.  Every human being deserves respect.  We may not agree with everything they say, but we can still show respect through listening.
2) Try putting yourself in the other person’s place.  See the situation from their perspective.  You’d probably know the subject matter may be dull.  How you like it if your audience fell asleep while you talked?  My mother always said “Treat others as you would want to be treated.”  Not bad advice.
3) Take notes if you feel sleepy.  Taking notes is a great way to demonstrate interest and it’s also a great way to stay awake through a boring presentation.  It encourages your brain to focus on what’s being said, even when you may not find the material interesting.  You’re notes may turn out to be a valuable resource to others as well.  I know mine have!

Okay let’s review what we’ve learned so far.  Listening is a critical and highly valuable skill.  Listening is not about you, it’s about the other person.  Listening demonstrates respect for others.  You can usually tell if someone’s listening by their body language, whether they use “hmm”, “uh ha”, “I see what you mean” or “I can relate” type of statements, if they ask questions or paraphrase and if they take notes.

Now you know the basics of good listening skills.  Try putting these ideas into practice today.  Enjoy your work and personal relationships as they improve through using your new listening skills!



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