4 Tips to enhance your listening skills
Acknowledge the importance of listening skills, and learn how to give the speaker your undivided attention
Listening is a quality that does not receive the kind of significance that it probably should. When you consider the emphasis placed on speaking skills, with mainstream classes and workshops, it makes the lack of similar stress on good listening skills even more baffling. Each, after all, is hardly as effective as it should be without the other.
However underrated it may be, developing good listening skills is imperative in order to foster any sort of beneficial communication, whether it’s for your personal growth or for pure business motives. Giving the speaker your undivided attention and being fully in the moment will only serve to endear you more to them, making it a highly desirable trait to possess.
Without further ado, let’s delve into some tips that will help you in this regard.
Acknowledge your short attention span
One of the reasons listening skills are generally ignored is that they are thought of as a fairly straightforward skill set.
I mean all you have to do with just sit there and listen, right? Well, no.
Hearing what the other person is telling you and actually listening to them are two entirely different things. With our infamously short attention spans, there is a lot of crucial information that we tend to miss out on if we’re not listening when we’re being addressed. The basic step is to acknowledge this fact, and stay extra cautious when you’re being addressed, especially if alone as opposed to as part of a group. Turn your mind off other things, maintain eye contact with the speaker and get ready to devote every bit of attention to what is going to be said to you.
Ask occasional questions
Yes, this appears to contradict the famous advice ‘Never interrupt someone who’s talking’. But, this is not so much an interruption as just a simple facilitation of a discussion, if you’re the only person being addressed. Every now and then, ask a simple question or say a short sentence related to what the speaker is talking about. This may even be a short line or a brief story emphasizing on a point the speaker just made. This not only helps you to avoid your mind drifting away from the topic, but also serves to impress upon the other person that you are, indeed, giving him/her your complete attention.
Stay curious and empathize
Sometimes, just to stay an active listener may require a great deal of effort. This is especially true of elderly strangers and the likes, who may ramble on with the rhetoric while you just stand there not knowing what your next move should be. In such cases, although it may be tedious, try to hear the other person out instead of cutting across abruptly and breaking the conversation. Try to cultivate a sense of curiosity, and form your own interpretations of the events they’re talking about. This may even give you something to reply to them with, instead of just nodding along uninterestedly. If nothing works, simply try to empathize with their situation, and appreciate their need to tell someone what they’re going through. Who knows, your effort and ability to extend a sympathetic ear may be appreciated, and you may end up making some good friends.
Avoid going off on a tangent
This is a common occurrence that happens without you even noticing that it does. We’ve established that a key facet of good listening is the ability to interject occasionally with thoughts and questions of your own. However, sometimes this bit can inadvertently veer the conversation onto an entirely different subject. Imagine this situation,
Friend (talking about his interview) : ‘So my interview was at Henson towers. You know that place?’
You: Oh, that’s where we had that party last Christmas. Did you know ….. ?’
Then you proceed to talk about the Christmas party, before eventually may or not may not coming back to the original subject that was being discussed. This will most definitely leave the other person feeling that you did not find the original topic very interesting, and is not a great way to build a conversation. The ideal thing to do is to keep in mind the main topic being discussed. You can save the tidbit or the tangent for later, once the original conversation as concluded. Or, you could allude to it for a brief moment before coming back to the main topic, leaving the other person confident that you are focused on what he/she is saying.