Being a good listener starts with being an active listener. Active listening is really an attitude, one that focuses on building shared understanding. It involves trying to understand the speaker's point of view. When we decide to understand the complete meaning, we listen for the conversation content as well as the speaker's attitude. This two-way channel includes letting the speaker know we are listening and that we understand what they have said.
Here are some tricks to become a better listener.
- Decide to listen. Focus your undivided attention on the speaker and ignore clutter and noise.
- Refrain from interruptions. Force yourself to let your partner finish. Respect their thoughts and wait your turn to ask questions or make comments.
- Do not let your eyes wander around the room, and keep your ears tuned to their voice.
- Use a notebook or conversation file on your computer. Write down each discussion during your day. Record the subject, what you learned, and who dominated the discussion (or if it was pretty equal). After you’ve written down about 10 conversations, you’ll have a good benchmark for your listening skills.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the other person what they want from the conversation. Are they looking for advice, validation, an opinion, or just an opportunity to vent? Knowing what they want will help you structure your listening approach, to effectively communicate with them.
- Remember to ask a few questions when it is appropriate and polite. This lets your conversation partner know you are paying attention and are interested. Paraphrasing and summarizing their statements has a similar effect.
- Strong listening skills are infectious. When you demonstrate good listening skills, people are impressed. By setting a good example, you encourage other people to follow your lead.