We’ve spoken many times on this site about how important good communication is to the success of a business, but beyond that, a good communicator is given an overall advantage in life. And every time we speak of the importance of good communication, we must acknowledge a big part of that is being a good listener. Truly, communication is a two-way street and those who are not listening to the others in the conversation are only getting half the experience. being a good listener is as important for your personal relationships as it is in the workplace. So if you feel your listening skills could use a little work, here are some tips to follow.
Remain in the moment.
One of the biggest reasons some people have trouble with their listening skills in a conversation is because they focus on the wrong side of the conversation. Instead of pay attention to what the other person is saying, they are more preoccupied with what they want to say next. They pick up on one small point the other person makes and begin to think about their next point. Obviously, if you aren’t actually actively listening to the other person, that’s a problem. Don’t view a conversation as a sort of competition where you have to formulate your thoughts ahead of time. Allow it to happen organically, considering everything the other person has to say before replying. It makes for a much more informed response for certain.
Don’t always try to “solve” things.
Another wrong approach to a conversation is looking at it as problem solving. Maybe there is an issue that needs to be addressed, but you need to know the difference between someone asking for your help and someone wanting to talk. When people just want to discuss the issue at hand openly, they don’t need you constantly interrupting with solutions and fixes. They want to be heard. All you have to do is listen in a respectful and attentive way. Allow them to say what’s on their mind before you start trying to look for solutions. In some cases, just being a good listener can be all the help a person needs.
Take their perspective into account.
Being a good listener does not mean you have to always agree with the person you are talking to, but it does mean you have to try to agree with them. Unless a person is saying something ignorant, harmful or disrespectful, you should never start a conversation by disagreeing with them. Be openminded and try to look at things from their perspective. Where might they be right? Where might you be wrong? Considering these things does not mean you’re abandoning your own points of view, it just means your willing to accept other people’s opinions.
Be attentive, but relaxed.
When you are aware that your listening skills are not as strong as they could be, most of us try to be more attentive in conversations. That’s a good approach to take, but you must remember that a conversation is not meant to be work. People can become to preoccupied with being attentive and reacting to what a person is saying that they don’t actually listen and think about what someone is saying. Though the intention might be right, it can actually be uncomfortable for the other person because it’s like they are talking at you rather than engaging in a conversation. Try to relax and just let the conversation happen. It’s not something you have to overthink.
The best way to engage with someone is by asking them questions. Questions allow conversations to grow and move forward rather than remain stagnant. Listening to what the other person is saying no doubt will bring more than a few questions to mind. You can use questions to clarify points they’ve made or to dig deeper into aspects of the topic. Of course, you don’t want to turn the conversation into an interview, which is why you need to share your own thoughts as well. This kind of active listening shows that you are engaged and adding to what is being said.