How to become a better listener
Being a good listener is an essential life skill that can impact you both at the office and in personal relationships. Whether talking to your boss, coworkers, clients, relatives or your spouse, it's important to focus and listen to what is being said.
In today's fast-paced, hectic world, we are always multitasking to accomplish as much as we can. When we are on the phone, we are also replying to emails. While we are at a meeting, we are often browsing the web or tweeting. If a person comes to you to talk, you should actually completely stop what you are doing and pay attention. Put down your smartphone, close the lid to your laptop, turn yourself toward the person and give him your undivided attention. By removing distractions and focusing, you'll be respecting the other person and actually listening to what they are saying.
Oftentimes we anticipate what a person (particularly a spouse or partner) is going to say, interrupt and interject. We do it without question and assume we are being helpful by speeding the conversation along. In actuality, it's displaying your poor etiquette and poor listening skills when you butt in before a person is finished talking. Allow the other party to finish speaking before you decide to interject or answer.
Show that you are listening by looking directly at the person who is talking, nodding occasionally, and reacting with facial expressions. This will convey the message that you are focused and attentive.
Open your mind
Our own assumptions, beliefs and judgments can distort our ability to listen. One of the keys to being a good listener is to not assume what the person is feeling or trying to say. Open your mind to hearing the entire conversation -- not just what you want to hear or are expecting to hear.
Don't focus on yourself
When a person is telling you their problems or concerns, it's almost human nature to respond with a story about your own trials and tribulations. What your partner or friend wants is sympathy right now, they don't want you to make it all about you.
Active listening also involves providing feedback. If you are unclear what the person is saying, ask questions once he has completed his thought. This is essential for good communication and will show that you are actually listening (and care about) what is being said. To clarify his points, you should simply paraphrase and summarize what he is saying, and then ask if that's correct. This is especially important in meaningful conversations at the office or with your partner. Show respect with candid, honest responses, rather than interrupting with counter arguments or attacks.
To become a better listener, you have to break bad habits such as multitasking or tuning people out. Concentrate and focus on truly hearing what the other person is saying. You'll find that you'll become a much more productive communicator and develop better work and personal relationships as you become a good listener.