5 Bad habits that get in the way of effective listening.
- Multi-tasking - Do you ever look at your phone or check emails during a conversation? If you think you can multi-task while listening, then you don't know what you're missing. It's also painfully obvious to the other person when we are distracted.
- Me, Me, Me - If your major concern is how others perceive you, or what you'll say next, then you can't focus on what is being said. Listen with a view to understand - not with a view to respond!!
- Brain Speed - If your thoughts outpace the speaking style of the person you are talking with, do you let your mind wander? Do you interrupt the other person because we believe we know what the person is trying to say but taking too long to say it.
- What did you Say? - Hearing loss can adversely affect every conversation, from missing out on a pleasant exchange to serious safety issues. If you suspect you have a hearing problem, get tested. If you know you have a hearing problem, get hearing aids. If you own hearing aids, wear them.
- Line Butting - You're bored with the subject so you interrupt and introduce a new topic. Or worse, you start talking about yourself.
6 things that you can do that will dramatically improve your listening skills.
- Paying attention - give the other person your undivided attention. In the words of Gandhi, "Wherever you are - Be there."
- Listen with your voice - Practice "Active Listening". Say "no kidding", "um hmm", "go on", or by paraphrasing, which, by definition, is the act of restating or rewording what others say. Say, "So what your saying is..." Or simply repeat the last thought the other person said. There is no better skill for effective listening then paraphrasing. If you've heard correctly, the other person will generally respond with an enthusiastic yes or nod. If you've heard it wrong, they'll know they need to clarify. Paraphrasing gives them the opportunity to restate what they said so accurate and meaningful communications take place.
- Listen with your body - Lean forward, put your hands on your chin, or listen with open arms. When your body conveys a listening posture, others become more comfortable and open. If appropriate, take notes. In a business meeting, it shows your interest and helps you stay focused. Nodding is also a key component of your listening posture. And smiling. Smiles are contagious and make others feel comfortable, and the more comfortable we are, the better we communicate. Establish and maintain eye contact. Not only is this reassuring to the other person, but it enables you to read their body language which can convey more than their words. As Yogi Berra said, "You can observe a lot by just watching."
- Button up!! - Don't interrupt. You hate it. So do others. It's rude. Unless you're seeing a fire erupt behind the person speaking, let them finish. Encourage them to fill out their thoughts by saying, "tell me more." When we interrupt, the other person loses their focus and we lose the opportunity to fully understand what they're trying to convey. Make a conscious effort to see how often you interrupt others over the course of a day. Hopefully, it won't be a rude awakening.
- Ask questions - In the words of Stephen Covey, "Seek first to understand, then be understood. This involves a very deep paradigm shift. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They are either speaking or preparing to speak."
- Talk less - A good philosophy is that conversations should not just be about you, but about we. As the Greek sage, Epictetus, observed: "Most of us were born with two ears and one mouth." That's a pretty good ratio between listening and talking.