In the recent set of posts about Difficult Conversations one of the skills that I identified was the ability to be a good listener. So, in the next few posts I want to explore what being a good listener means and how you can develop your skills in that area.
In my opinion, one of the most important things you can learn in life outside of empathy is learning to be a good listener. There are a variety of reasons for this. Outside of the fact that you’ll get to know people better if you’re a good listener, there is also the fact that people will remember you more and like you more if you listen. If you want to be popular, learn to be an active listener.
What It Means to Be a Good Listener
There are some characteristic signs of a good listener that you can teach yourself. With practice, these things will become natural to you. But they do take practice. When you start doing this, you’ll notice that people seem to like you more and remember you more. The main reason is that good listeners often elicit a lot more trust than bad listeners.
- Make Eye Contact – A person who is really listening to you doesn’t look at screens, in the mirror, or out the window while engaged in conversation. They put the person they’re talking with at the centre of their thoughts and eye contact. You don’t have to gaze into someone’s eyes without rest, but you do need to show that you’re paying attention.
- Ask Thoughtful Questions – At appropriate times, ask the person you’re talking to questions based on what they’ve already told you. Ask one question at a time and give them an opportunity to answer before interjecting into the conversation.
- Pay Attention – It can be hard for most people to pay attention, but you can learn tricks to make your brain actively engage with listening to the person you’re talking with. Look at their face, listen to their words, and nod in agreement or disagreement while they talk. If you don’t understand something, ask for further explanation.
- Avoid Making Assumptions – As was mentioned earlier, ask questions when you don’t understand. Never make assumptions about what someone means, and don’t read between the lines. When in doubt, simply ask for clarification to ensure that you really do understand what someone is trying to say to you.
- Think before Responding – When it’s your turn to speak (which isn’t until you are able to find a two- to three-second pause between thoughts), always think about the right way to respond before you do it. Remember that the more questions you ask and the more you get the other person to talk, the more they’ll feel as if they know, like and trust you.
- Don’t Change the Subject – When it is your turn to talk, don’t change the subject. Stick to what the other person is talking about, even if they say something that rubs you the wrong way. If you’re only focused on the topic and not how they choose to express themselves, your overall communication will improve – as will your ability to listen.
- Don’t Interrupt – It can be hard when you are with someone who is super-talkative and talks fast, but when you’re focused on being a better listener you don’t want to interrupt people. Let them talk, keep listening, and focus on what they’re saying. When there is a two- to three-second pause, you can lean forward, look them in the eye, gesture with your hand, and then speak when they stop talking.
Being a good listener is an essential skill to develop in life. You will use this skill in all aspects of your life – personal and business. The biggest thing to know is that you want to listen to understand, not so that you can reply. When you start realising that, you’ll do a lot better and become an amazing listener.