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How to Become a Better Listener

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Becoming a better listener will make you more effective not only at your job but also in your personal life. Improving your listening skills strengthens relationships by building rapport and trust with others. People want to feel listened to and they like to talk about themselves. They don’t really want to hear about you…at least not initially.

Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. ~ Theodore Roosevelt.

When you become a better listener you open yourself up to learn more, whether it’s about that person or an idea, concept or even an upcoming event. Plus it takes the pressure off of having to carry the conversation and it makes you a better communicator. Follow the simple tips below and you’ll be on your way to becoming a more effective listener and communicator.

Tip # 1 Don’t interrupt of finish people’s sentences.

Allow them to finish their thought. Interrupting conveys what they are saying or that they themselves are not important to you. You’re effectively telling the other person that your needs and thoughts are more important than their’s.

Focus on what they are saying instead of how you are going to respond. If you want someone to open up to you and be honest about their thoughts, then you need to create a safe space for them to speak their mind. This will enable the two of you to have a dialogue where ideas are generated or problems are solved.

The same is true of finishing someone’s sentences or supplying a word they maybe struggling to find. Let them find their own thoughts or words. It might be different than what you assumed and you might gain the clarity or insight you need to take the conversation further.

Tip # 2 Ask clarifying questions.

Speaking of clarity, don’t assume you have complete understanding of what the other person has said. Say things like, ” What I heard you say was…Is that correct?” Or, ” While I was listening to you, this is what I thought I understood…Is that what you meant? Or even, “Would you elaborate on what you meant by…?” These types of questions will drive engagement and dialogue. It enables the two of you to volley the conversation which will increase creativity, collaboration and problem solving.

Tip # 3 Make eye contact.

Just like interrupting, not making eye contact sends the message that they are not important and that you are too busy to be bothered. If someone asks you a question or wants to speak with you while you are checking your phone or working on the computer, ask them to give you a minute to finish up or get to a stopping place. If you can’t be interrupted, let them know you want to speak with them but now is not a good time. Set a time when the two of you can talk and so he or she can have your undivided attention. By the same token if you approach someone who is buried in a device or work, always ask if they have a few minutes before diving into what’s on your mind.

Tip # 4 Watch your body language.

Do you roll your eyes, fold your arms or have a scowl on your face? These are nonverbal interruptions and have the same effect that interrupting does. It makes a person feel as if their opinions aren’t important and it makes you unapproachable. You don’t have to agree with what the other person is saying, but you do want to put them at ease and not put them in the position of being defensive.

Tip # 5 Follow up with acknowledging statements.

Similar to probing questions, an acknowledging statement makes the speaker feel heard and invites them to continue speaking. Using these will help you learn and better understand his or her point of view. Say things like, “That’s interesting” or “I agree” or “Tell me more.” You can also say things like, “That must have been painful for you” or “You must feel really frustrated” or “You must be excited” Statements acknowledging what they said makes them feel comfortable continuing to speak and will also encourage good dialogue and volleying the conversation.

Tip # 6 Avoid nudge words.

Nudge word are words like “uh-huh,” “ya,” “right,” and “I know” to name a few. These words verbally nudge the speaker to finish talking and don’t allow them to fully express their thoughts. While your intention might be to show agreement, nudge words come across as awkward, uncomfortable, and that you want the speaker to finish so you can jump in and make your point. A better option would be to listen intently while leaning in and nodding occasionally. Then once he or she has finished say, “Wow,” ” Yes,” “That is interesting,” or “I agree.”

When you become a better listener, you help people feel heard and acknowledged. It strengthens your connection and relationships with others. As a result you will have greater influence, be a more effective leader and have a stronger team.

Do you have any listening tips? Share them in the comments below.

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