Active, empathetic listening plays a crucial role in good communication. By tuning into others, we avert misunderstandings and mistakes and we strengthen our business and personal relationships. Yet most of us really don't listen effectively. We're taught how to read, write and speak, but rarely how to listen. The good news is that listening skills can be learned, practiced and mastered. Poor habits can be changed. Here are ten tips to improve your listening skills.
The Top 10 Tips to Becoming a Master Listener
1. Start observing your own and other people's listening habits.
Ask yourself what it feels like when someone really listens to you and, conversely, when they don't.
2. Stop talking!
You can't talk and listen effectively at the same time. Spend only 20 percent of the time talking and 80 percent listening.
3. Be present and patient with the speaker.
Don't interrupt. Avoid mentally preparing your response or rebuttal while the other person is speaking.
4. Listen with empathy.
Put yourself in the other person's place so that you can understand the speaker's point of view.
5. Let the speaker know you're really listening.
Maintain good eye contact and nod or shake your head occasionally. Your body language gives the speaker clues about whether or not you want to hear what they're saying.
6. Identify your red flag words and hot button topics - those that really get under your skin.
Being aware of them will help you avoid distorting the speaker's message or shutting down. When you close your mind, you take the risk of missing something important.
7. Eliminate external distractions.
Avoid noisy restaurants or sites that are too hot, cold, windy, or uncomfortable. Move to another location in your office or at a reception if you're having trouble hearing.
8. Keep background noise to a minimum when trying to listen to someone on the telephone.
Turning magazine pages, shuffling papers, or clicking computerkeys sends a signal that you're only half-listening.
9. Practice listening by paying close attention to speakers on television.
Listen to those who are giving speeches rather than just sound bites.
10. Create a checklist of listening habits you want to change.
Develop an action plan for changing specific habits each week. Practicing good listening habits will help you become a master listener.
About the Submitter
This piece was originally submitted by Dee Helfgott