Whether you realise it or not, listening is by far the most important part of communication, even more important than speaking itself. Unfortunately, more often than not, people are too focused on the speaking aspect of the conversation, which hampers their ability to communicate effectively.
Communication involves listening and understanding what the other person is saying, and responding to that in a thoughtful fashion. Failing to do that means that you're not actually communicating - you're just talking.
So how can you make sure that you're listening properly? To help you, we have put together a brief guide on 7 easy ways to improve your listening skills.
1) Remove distractions
The first and most important thing you need to do is to remove all distractions. Distractions can be your phone, your laptop, or even food. When you're having a conversation with someone, it's best to focus on them instead of something else. Although it's very rude to browse through your phone when you're talking to someone, unfortunately it's very common. Just remove the temptation and put these distractions away.
2) Listen actively
As sad as it may sound, we often forget to pay attention to what the person in front of us is saying. Most of the time we're focusing on ourselves, already planning what we might say in response. Although you might think that you're listening, this doesn't allow you to fully understand what the other person is trying to say. Eventually you'll only have a portion of the information you need to respond to, which can be a big hindrance to communication.
If you'd like to avoid this, Psych Central shared some brilliant tips on how to become a listener and how to listen actively on their website.
3) Pay attention to body language
Sometimes you can get distracted despite your best efforts and intentions. One way to keep you attention focused on your companion is to study his or her body language. By doing this, not only will you focus on the conversation, but you will also get more information. By studying their body language, you can identify which points they feel strongly about and which aspect of the conversation is more important to them.
4) Show that you're paying attention
It's also very important to show that you're paying attention, since this will allow your companion to talk freely and will encourage honesty as well. Some of the best ways to achieve this is to maintain eye contact, nod, and occasionally agree to their points. You can also keep your own body language open and receptive.
5) Don't interrupt
Interrupting is the worst thing you can do when you're in the middle of a conversation. Not only does it mean that you don't value the opinion of the person in front of you, but it can seem very disrespectful as well. To avoid situations like this, try to keep your thoughts and judgements to yourself until the other person has finishing speaking instead of interrupting them.
Some people fear that the point they wish to comment on would pass and they'd lose track. That's why most people interrupt conversations. However, you can always bring the other person's attention back to that particular point by saying something like, "so, regarding what you said earlier, I think...". It's just a matter of being patient.
Make sure to always engage with the person you're talking to. You can do this in many ways - either by reiterating what they said to confirm it, by asking questions, or by giving feedback during the course of the conversation. When you do this, you're an active participant in the conversation, and are listening to what the other person is saying.
If you need some more tips on how to ask good questions, click here to take a look at our Communication Skills course and see how ZandaX can help you.
7) Respond sensibly
Think before your respond. Listening actively to someone means that you treat them with respect, so you need to be respectful in your response as well. You need to be open and honest, and give your opinions firmly without being rude. If you disagree with them, tell them that you disagree, and give your reasons without trying to insult their intelligence.
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