The art of listening

How do you become successful with people and relationships despite the other persons personality, their culture, their age, their job, gender, their success, and so on? Everyone, despite who they are, love to talk about themselves. They love to feel comfortable and to be able to open up to someone that is willing to listen. So did you catch the answer to my question? If you said listening, then you are right.

A lot of people I have encountered are really good at hearing, but they lack the skill of listening. People think that if they hear what the other person is saying that they are listening, but that could not be more wrong. When you are hearing words go through one ear and out the other and basically all that is going through your head is noise, but if you are listening you are giving the person your full attention with eye contact and comprehending in your head as they are talking what they are really saying. When you are listening to a song with lyrics and all you are taking in is the melody and the beats and not really listening to the words to know what the song is really about is what it is like when all you do is hear. Listening to the song is taking in the words and at the end knowing what the whole songs is about because every song has a underlying story to it and you have to LISTEN to the song to know what the story is. If you are a good listener, people will be constantly attracted to you because you are genuinely interested in things that they have to say and people don’t like to feel like what they are saying are on deaf ears because that would be a waste of their talking time. Everyone always has something to say and everyone has a story that they want to tell, so start to be a better active listener and you will be more successful with people

Jimmy Fallon said “To listen effectively, I suggest that you view dialogue more like a pitcher and catcher in a baseball game. The pitcher (speaker) throws the ball for the catcher (you) to receive it. The catcher only throws the ball back after he has it firmly in his grasp”.

Some tips to be a better listener.

1. Stop Talking

Don’t talk, listen. When somebody else is talking listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them. Stop, just listen. When the other person has finished talking you may need to clarify to ensure you have received their message accurately.

2. Prepare Yourself to Listen

Relax. Focus on the speaker. Put other things out of mind. The human mind is easily distracted by other thoughts – what’s for lunch, what time do I need to leave to catch my train, is it going to rain – try to put other thoughts out of mind and concentrate on the messages that are being communicated.

3. Put the Speaker at Ease

Help the speaker to feel free to speak. Remember their needs and concerns. Nod or use other gestures or words to encourage them to continue. Maintain eye contact but don’t stare – show you are listening and understanding what is being said.

4. Remove Distractions

Focus on what is being said: don’t doodle, shuffle papers, look out the window, pick your fingernails or similar. Avoid unnecessary interruptions. These behaviours disrupt the listening process and send messages to the speaker that you are bored or distracted.

5. Empathize

Try to understand the other person’s point of view. Look at issues from their perspective. Let go of preconceived ideas. By having an open mind we can more fully empathise with the speaker. If the speaker says something that you disagree with then wait and construct an argument to counter what is said but keep an open mind to the views and opinions of others.

See our page: What is Empathy?

6. Be Patient

A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean that the speaker has finished. Be patient and let the speaker continue in their own time, sometimes it takes time to formulate what to say and how to say it. Never interrupt or finish a sentence for someone.

7. Avoid Personal Prejudice

Try to be impartial. Don’t become irritated and don’t let the person’s habits or mannerisms distract you from what they are really saying. Everybody has a different way of speaking – some people are for example more nervous or shy than others, some have regional accents or make excessive arm movements, some people like to pace whilst talking – others like to sit still. Focus on what is being said and try to ignore styles of delivery.

8. Listen to the Tone

Volume and tone both add to what someone is saying. A good speaker will use both volume and tone to their advantage to keep an audience attentive; everybody will use pitch, tone and volume of voice in certain situations – let these help you to understand the emphasis of what is being said.

See our page: Effective Speaking for more.

9. Listen for Ideas – Not Just Words

You need to get the whole picture, not just isolated bits and pieces. Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of listening is the ability to link together pieces of information to reveal the ideas of others. With proper concentration, letting go of distractions, and focus this becomes easier.

10. Wait and Watch for Non-Verbal Communication

Gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements can all be important. We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes – watch and pick up the additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication.

11. Listen and repeat

As the person is talking, repeat what they are saying in your head in your voice that way the information they are saying is repeated twice in your head. You have an inner voice that if you use, just like when you are reading a book silently can help you retain the information to be able to comprehend.

Hope these tips are helpful. Listening can be a powerful tool to successfully keep a marriage, get a job, keep a job, keep a friend and so many other things to make a relationship successful. I remember I read a quote that said, “War is the failure to listen”. Words are powerful and when they are taken the wrong way they can have a lot of casualties. So practice listening so you can avoid those casualties.


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