You meet someone for the first time and they walk up to you, shake your hand and say, “Hi, my name is…” BAM…you go blank the second their name comes out of their mouth. It’s as if they didn’t even say their name at all. You were hearing what they were saying, but you were not necessarily listening to them. It is a common occurrence for us to zone out while others are speaking, and for others to do the same to us. We get distracted by our phones, people walking by, what we plan to eat for dinner, and a whole host of non-related mind gibberish bouncing around inside our skulls. To become a master listener, it’s something that is taught, learned, and implemented. Good listening skills are not something that just comes naturally. In fact, the art of listening is something that takes practice and great focus.
Get Outta Town! People Don’t Listen?
Research has found that only 25 to 50 percent of what we speak or what we hear is actually remembered. Now consider that this number is for those who are truly paying attention. What happens when we stop focusing on a speaker and begin to get lost in our own thoughts? That number drops dramatically and before we know it, we remember hardly anything that was discussed. Now, think of what kind of an advantage you would have over the rest of the listening world if you just learned how to become a good listener. Your mind will become sharper, your communication skills will improve, and your confidence will sky-rocket. The key here is not to just hear what others are saying, but to truly listen. Listen intently and with focus. Learn to master your skills and you will become one step closer to living a Worry Free Life.
If we were meant to talk more than listen, we would have two mouths and one ear.
Here are 5 Easy Steps to Becoming a Better Listener
Step 1: Be Attentive
Put away anything that will distract you from what is being discussed (cell phones, tablets, books, etc.). When a conversation is happening, it is time to be present and be 100 percent in the moment. Be relaxed but not aloof. As the person is talking, learn to be truly interested in what they are talking about and try to picture what they are discussing. Stop acting bored and get interested! So often we get bored or distracted because the topic may not be something that we’re completely interested in, but try your best to find a way to learn something new. If you can gain one little golden nugget from a conversation, you can use it when it is your turn to speak, and also use what you have learned in future conversations.
Step 2: Make Good Eye Contact
Why is it that parents are constantly telling their young children to “look at me when I’m talking to you,” but as adults we fail to practice what we preach? By making good eye contact you are showing the other person that you have some interest in what they are saying, and that you respect the conversation. You do not have to give them a cross-eyed death stare for 20 minutes strong, but look them in the eye when they are speaking. Glancing away occasionally is okay, but avoid looking around.
Step 3: Stop Thinking and Start Listening
As soon as someone starts telling us a story, it almost becomes second nature for our mind to begin racing and for us to start thinking of the story that we are going to tell. A conversation should not be a constant back and forth match of one-upping the other person’s story.
Person A: “I climbed the hill behind my house yesterday?”
Person B: “That’s great. I hiked Mt. Everest yesterday.”
Don’t worry, your time will come when you can tell your story and add your thoughts to the conversation. It’s very common for people to stop listening to what you are saying because in their mind they believe that what they are going to say next will be some ground-breaking anecdote. Therefore, instead of actively listening, they just stop and hold that thought in their head. You must learn to block out your thoughts and begin to comprehend and interpret what others are saying. Otherwise, you are bound to miss more than half of the story. Not only is this rude…but it’s flat-out boring, isn’t it?
Step 4: Don’t Interrupt
Again, we hear parents telling their children all of the time not to interrupt others while they’re speaking. Just because we see and hear others speaking over each other on television and on radio does not mean that it is okay to do it in our normal lives. Television and radio is meant to be over-the-top entertainment, but when engaging in a meaningful conversation, it is best to wait until the other person pauses before interjecting. When you interrupt others, it says that you:
- Can care less about what they have to say
- Are too busy to give them the time of day
- Think you are more important than them
- That you already know it all
Be patient, be calm, and behave in the way that you would teach a young child. It really is that simple.
Step 5: Give the Speaker Feedback
Do not just nod just to nod; be genuine about what it is that you are nodding about. When the speaker tells you something that is interesting or unique, feel free to chime in when they take a breath. “Wow, that’s really amazing.” “Very cool. Good for you!” However, do not let these become filler words and constant nods and “uh huh,” “okay,” and “oh really’s?” Listen and respond. Listen more and respond again.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Listening is the Lifeblood of Communication
When you think of good communication skills, you probably think of someone up on a grand stage that has refined speaking skills and has a way of connecting with an audience. While these are absolutely part of what makes a good communicator, the listening part of communication is what makes everything tick. Without the ability to listen, comprehend, and interpret, chances are that you will just come across as being a know-it-all that does not truly care about others. You lose the ability to be genuine and lose your ability to be trusted. Learn to stop hearing and learn to start listening!