Have you ever been in a room full of noise, everyone is contributing but no one seems to be listening? I have!
Have you ever heard couples complain about the inability of the other to communicate effectively, i.e LISTEN? And, have you heard some employees complain their superiors don’t “listen”?
Again, I have!
While it is so vital that we are able to communicate effectively, most of the time, we’re more enthusiastic about talking than we are about listening. That’s why most relationships breakdowns are a result of poor communication – people talk at each other not with/to each other! Unless someone hears what’s been said, including the subtext, the words have little value.
When we are actively listened to, we feel valued and are far more likely to engage in negotiation and compromise.
Listening in general is not about hearing the words. Watching facial expressions and body language often gives one a far more accurate story than the words that are being used.
So, how can one be an effective listener? Here’re my top 10 tips to becoming a more effective listener:
1. Make eye contact
If you’ve ever tried talking to someone who’s looking the other way or doing something, you’ll know how annoying it is! Put yourself on the other side, if you’re the one being talked with, why not make eye contact.
Now, this doesn’t mean looking fixedly at the other person. BUT being attentive!
2. Read the body language of the talker
Are they relaxed or anxious or angry? Extremes are easy to recognise but often the message is much more subtle which is why you need to make eye contact, and read the body language.
3. Mirror the talker’s body language
4. Show that you are listening
By nodding, making appropriate responses, you’re showing the person talking to you that they’ve got your attention thus encouraging them to continue.
5. Try not interrupt the talker
There’s nothing annoying like being interrupted in the middle of a sentence or point! When listening to someone, it’s always a good idea to wait till the person is finished or has taken a pause to say something. Sometimes interrupting causes the person to lose track or forget their point.
If you can hold your thoughts/points till they’re finished, you show respect. Otherwise it looks like you feel your points are more important or you don’t care what the other person has to say!
6. Ask relevant questions
If you’re not clear about something, ask for clarification BUT try not ask questions that take the speaker off course. An example of one of the irrelevant (and also annoying) questions is as follows:
Friend 1: Hey, you know I finally worked out how to get my kids to eat veggies. In fact, Lisa gave me a good idea and I tried it out.
Friend 2: Oh, how is Lisa doing? I haven’t caught up with her in ages!
(Shake my head)
While the speaker in this case may be happy to discuss the mutual friend, perhaps a question more relevant to the subject would’ve been better!
Asking questions can be difficult or send the wrong message to the talker. So here’re a few tips:
7. Use open ended questions
who, what, where, when
8. Watch out for the tone of your voice when you respond or ask questions
It’s easy to come across as judgemental, uninterested, plain ignorant, or as an interrogator.
9. Use empathy
It’s important to acknowledge difficulties. However, be careful not to fall into the trap of going into narratives from your own experience. In the spirit of sometimes showing empathy, people sometimes come across as being “all about me not you”.
Here’s a good example, say “I sense that you are finding this rather difficult” rather than, “Oh I know, it happened to me but mine was bigger, more difficult etc!”
10. Take a real interest
If you are simply going through the motions the lack of sincerity will be obvious to others. Leave your ego behind and concentrate on the other person
All this said, they say Communication is only completed when understanding is derived! So if you haven't understood the other person, communication isn't complete really.
Do you have problems with communication? Do you find it hard to listen OR do you feel people don't listen to you? Would love to hear your thoughts/comments on the strategies above.