Communication is Key – How good are you at listening?
In today’s world, we have many methods of communicating. Most of it is in digital format, either an email, text, or of course, social media – posts, snaps, tweets, etc. All of those are useful in the right situation, but what about an actual face to face conversation? How often do you do that – and when you do, how good are you at it?
With so much talking going on in the digital realm, many forms of communication are very one-sided. Folks have something to say, so they say it. No need to worry about someone interrupting with a question or different point of view. Here’s the thing – when we’re actually in a dialog with someone and words are being exchanged back and forth, the key to understanding what the other person is saying is all about listening, and not so much about talking.
Here are 10 tips for successful listening (and communicating):
- Face the person speaking and maintain eye contact.
Don’t try to have a meaningful conversation while looking at your cell phone or let your attention stray elsewhere in the room.
- Be attentive.
Pay attention to physical demeanor. Is your partner sitting arms folded, or arms on the table? Standing with hands on hips or feet crossed? If you mirror your partner’s physical behavior, they will subconsciously feel more comfortable.
- Keep an open mind.
Listen without judging or being mentally critical. If you think “that was a stupid” don’t shut down. If you continue to listen or ask for clarification, there may be a reason for a statement that you were unaware of in the moment.
- Make a mental picture of what the speaker is saying.
Allow your mind to create a picture or some type of model of the information being communicated. When listening for long stretches, concentrate on key words and phrases.
- Don’t jump right into offering solutions.
Are they asking for advice, or just talking it out? Recognize when to lend an ear versus lending a hand.
- Ask questions.
When you ask a question (appropriately) most folks love it! It shows you’re interested in what they are saying.
- But wait for a pause first.
Rather than interrupt, wait until there’s a pause then say something like “hang on a minute. I didn’t understand . . .”
- Pay attention to emotions.
Don’t get into the habit of nodding and smiling absentmindedly. If someone is talking about something sad, pay attention and react appropriately.
- Give regular feedback.
Show that you understand by reflecting on your partner’s feelings. “You must be so excited!” “That must have been awful!”
- Pay attention to what isn’t said – nonverbal cues.
The majority of direct communication is nonverbal. Tone of voice, demeanor, expression. The nonverbal cues are just as important to be aware of, and sometimes more important, than the actual words.
What are your favorite tips for being a good listener?