Listening skills aren’t developed just from learning how to listen better. Your body language, mindset and general manners all come into play. Therefore, if you want to learn how to become a better listener, you need to work on several areas.
Here’s ten everyday habits you can work on, to improve your listening skills both at work and at home.
#1: Learn to paraphrase and summarise
This is a great habit to develop as, not only does it help illustrate you’ve understood the other person, it also shows that you’ve been listening. When you’re having a conversation with another person, learn to summarise the general gist of the conversation, as well as summarising the main point of the conversation. Obviously, you don’t want to do this for EVERY conversation you have, but in conversations that involve a problem, pain point or conflict, it’s a great way to illustrate understanding and build rapport.
#2: Soften your body language
Our body language can often give other people mixed signals, especially if we’re saying one thing but portraying another. In particular, get into the habit of unfolding your arms and legs, as these can be a sign of a closed or angry person. Learn to also relax your body, when interacting with others, so you come across as more approachable.
#3: Give the other person your undivided attention
Show you’re paying attention, by making eye contact look at the other person. Be in the moment with them, by turning off other distractions. Watching the TV, reading a book, writing and even looking around you, are all signs that you’re not giving them your undivided attention. Not only does it make them feel like they’re boring you, it’s also showing a lack of good manners on your part.
#4: Suspend the judgements and assumptions
When someone is sharing something with you, it isn’t a signal for you to jump in with assumptions, judgements or solutions. Some people process their thoughts through talking, so they’ll come up with answers as they talk. Other people just need to vent, in order to feel better. If you’re unsure what your part is in a conversation, or need to clarify if they need help solving a problem, ask. It’s the same with feelings and similar situations – don’t assume you know how they’re feeling and don’t look to share a story about how you had it worse!
#5: Keep interruptions to a minimum
Regardless of whether you’re in conversation at work or home, if you constantly interrupt the other person you’re sending out the wrong signals. Not only will it make them feel ignored, it can also be a sign that you feel superior to them. Keep interruptions to a minimum and keep them relevant to the conversation you’re currently having.
#6: Give up the need to always be right
When someone comes to you for a conversation, you need to take it as an opportunity to listen and better understand the person. It’s also a sign that they respect and trust you – so earn that respect. You don’t have to agree with them and you don’t have to shine a light on what you feel they’re doing wrong, unless they specifically ask. If you look at conversations as a power struggle or a need to win or be right, you’re listening from the wrong viewpoint.
#7: Get comfortable with silence and space
Pauses and quiet periods during a conversation can be intimidating and uncomfortable. However, they can also serve as valuable processing time, for both parties to think and evaluate. So learn to get comfortable with them, by giving yourself and others time to process things. In your daily life get into the habit of giving people time to make a decision or come up with a response. If you’re always in need of an immediate answer or response, it could be a sign that you’re either being impatient or leaving things to the last minute.
#8: Be open to other opinions – listen to understand and learn
It’s important to remember, just because someone has another opinion or way of doing things, it doesn’t negate your thoughts, beliefs and opinions. Be open to new ideas and opinions. Learn to listen and understand them and, if needed, learn to adapt or move on.
#9: Nod and smile
Never underestimate the importance of a smile and nod! We can all improve our own moods and those of others, by simply smiling at more people on a daily basis. It not only helps lift the mood, it also builds connections and rapport with others.
#10:Be curious and develop a growth mindset
A learning mind is a curious mind. Make it a goal to read more, as reading is proven to improve your intellect and your curiosity. This will help you with several of the above habits, by helping you understand more, be open to more and have more to talk about – all of which can improve your overall listening skills.
Learning to listen better is an incredibly valuable and useful skill to master. By working on the ten habits above, you’ll not only improve your listening skills at work and home, you’ll also improve your personality and develop better manners as a result!
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