Having good listening skills is essential if we want to be a better communicator and have more influence with others.
As listening is a key component of effectively relating to others, knowing what we can do to improve is extremely beneficial.
If we observe most people during conversations, they’re not actively listening to what another person is saying. It’s been said that instead of listening attentively, most people are thinking of what to say next. This means it can be easy to miss something that has been said or even misunderstand someone.
The Advantages of Having Better Listening Skills
- It will improve relationships and build friendships.
- It will facilitate better understanding and agreement.
- It will avoid conflicts.
- It will solve problems faster.
- It will reduce errors and time wasted.
Poor communication skills has been known to cost people money, friendships, personal or professional relationships, and careers. Focusing on developing good listening skills is one way to start becoming a better communicator.
I remember watching an episode of “What Drives You” on YouTube, where the interviewer was driving an expensive luxury car, while interviewing a special guest. In this particular episode, Stephanie McMahon, the Chief Brand Officer of World Wrestling Entertainment was being interviewed.
As I watched the interview, it was obvious the interviewer was not listening attentively, which was quite amusing. She may have been focused on driving the expensive car they were in, safely. In this case, the interviewer did not demonstrate good listening skills, which may have affected the quality of the interview.
7 Listening Skills That Will Improve Your Ability to Communicate
We have to be willing to invest time if we want to improve our listening skills. These are seven things that will result in better listening skills.
- Maintain eye contact. This is more relevant for face-to-face interactions rather than virtual conversations. It’s best to face or look at the person speaking in order to give more attention to them. Maintaining eye contact helps make the person speaking feel heard and acknowledged.
- Be present and relaxed. The more present we are, the more relaxed we’ll be. When we give our full attention to the person speaking, we’ll eliminate any chance of us being distracted. When we’re present and relaxed, we can pay attention to things like the person’s body language, tonality, pace and tempo.
- Avoid interrupting. This can be challenging at times, especially if we want to say something in that very moment. This is where we have to train ourselves to allow the person to finish speaking before we say anything.
- Repeat back what you are hearing. To avoid confusion, it’s valuable to confirm our understanding of what was said. This can be done by saying something like, “Can you confirm that my understanding is correct?” Then we can repeat back what we heard based on how we understood it.
- Ask clarifying questions. Being curious will help improve our overall communication skills. Asking questions such as, “Is this what you mean?” or “Could you expand on what you meant when you said this?” are simple ways to clarify understanding.
- Take notes, if practical. In social or informal settings, it may be difficult or not relevant to take notes. However, in professional settings like meetings, appointments or interviews, taking notes is a good way to keep track of what’s been said. That will also help us ask relevant follow-up questions, if necessary.
- Summarise and provide feedback. How a conversation comes to an end is also important. To avoid confusion and reach an agreement, it helps to summarise what was said. This will bring up anything that’s inaccurate or may have been misunderstood. It’s also an opportunity to ask questions again and provide any relevant feedback.
With the amount of distractions we’re exposed to today, people’s attention spans have greatly reduced. By putting in the effort to improve our listening skills, we’ll set ourselves apart from others. With practice over time, our listening skills will improve, which may also inspire others to improve as well. A world that communicates better is a world that collaborates better.
Question: What are other things we can do to improve our listening skills in order to become a better communicator?
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