We’ve all been told how important the skill of listening is and doubtless we all can improve in this area. Our success in every area of work and all our relationships will improve if we follow some of these simple guidelines.
- Commit to improving your listening. Only when the pain of failure or embarrassment is lurking do we usually make this commitment. Why not commit right now?
- Limit your talking. You’ve likely already heard that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Isn’t obvious that you can’t listen to anyone else when you’re talking?
- Stop worrying about what you are going to say. Your mind works more quickly than you may have imagined. When you actually let the other person finish, they may have conveyed something important that you may have otherwise missed while trying to conjure up your answer.
- Stop judging or listening for evidence of what you anticipated the speaker to say. That sabotages the listening process. Put yourself in the other’s shoes and you may derive a totally different message.
- Look to learn from the exchange. Too often we assume that what we have to say is more important than what the other person is communicating. Instead look to learn something from every encounter. When in doubt, be curious and not furious about the message.
- Assume a listening posture. Position your body toward the speaker and focus your face and eyes squarely toward them. Keep in eye contact, and smile and nod to let them know you are following them.
- Focus on the speaker’s words. Sure you can think much faster than others are talking, but allowing yourself to do so only takes you into distraction that include other noises or the speaker’s own idiosyncrasies.
- Monitor the other person’s body language and tone. Often it is more important to grasp how something is stated and delivered rather than what.
- Hold your tongue. When someone says something that troubles, excites, or pleases you, resist the temptation to interrupt. Doing so may not only distract them, but could risk angering, disappointing, or confusing them.
- Ask clarifying questions to make sure you are grasping the speaker’s message. “You mean that…?” “How does that relate to…?” This means that you should avoid making assumptions about what the person is about to or has said.
- Tell the speaker what you heard. Remember that communicating is a two-way street. Doing so gives both of you the opportunity to sidestep any misunderstandings.
- Be enthusiastic in your listening. Be fun and have fun when appropriate, and serious when necessary, but always remain engaged.
Outstanding listening can pay dividends in every area of your business and life, and the skills can be mastered by anyone.