7 Listening Tips. Part One of Effective Communication Skills
This article is the first of four on communication skills that we will publish over the next few weeks. Here we focus on one of the ‘reception’ skills – listening. We are looking at how to develop and maintain effective listening skills. Although listening may ‘sound’ easy, listening well is a gift that not everyone has. Improving your ability to listen well will enable you to assess situations with more clarity and gain insight into other people, their opinions and the overall circumstances of an event. Listening well can prevent you from misreading a situation and making mistakes – both at home and at work.
Follow our 7 tips to ensure your listening skills are working for you and for those around you.
1. Maintain Eye Contact
Looking at someone who is talking to you shows that you are listening and consider what they are saying is of value. Put down your phone and close your laptop. If you’re not maintaining eye contact when you’re listening to someone talk, it’s hard for them to gauge whether you are taking on board anything they’re saying, or if you’re even interested at all. It’s also easier for your own mind to get distracted when you are looking at something other than the speaker.
2. Listen Actively
Active listening is about acknowledging that you are part of a two-way communication without interrupting the other person. Nodding, positive facial expressions and saying phrases like, “yes”, “I see” or “clearly” all show the speaker that you are actively involved in what they are saying.
3. Stop Rehearsing
When someone else is talking, it’s often natural for the other person to be planning their response in their own head. This is especially true of people who think quickly and process information rapidly. Rehearsing what you are going to say means that you aren’t really listening as well as you could be. Clear your head of possible responses and focus entirely on the speaker. As a quick thinker, you’ll have plenty of time to formulate a response when they have concluded.
4. Don’t Sentence Grab or Interrupt
If someone communicates at a slower pace than you, it’s often tempting to jump into the conversation to ‘help’ them by finishing their sentences or pre-guessing their ideas. Don’t do it! Allow the speaker their own time to communicate their thoughts. You can clarify your understanding, or offer your own solutions or opinions, when they have finished. Your interruptions may distract them (and it’s rude!).
5. Empathy – The Key to Good Listening Skills
Empathy is at the heart of a good listener. Try to imagine how the speaker feels about the situation being described, or how it affects the other people involved. This skill takes concentration and energy on your part, but will actively encourage the speaker and create an improved communication experience for you both.
6. Maintain the Speaker’s Focus
Some speakers have a tendency to digress. If you feel that someone has gone completely off-topic, be polite, but gently steer them back on course. An example may be simply saying something like, “That’s really interesting. Perhaps we could discuss it in detail another time, but back to what you were saying before…”
If you have trouble taking in what people are saying – most of us have ‘switched off’ during a longer conversation – try to visualise what a speaker is telling you. Imagine, using images or words, what it is they are talking about. This helps your brain to remember and create ‘sign posts’ so you can easily recall what was said at a later date.
Part Two of Effective Communication Skills will focus on the other ‘reception’ skill; improving your reading.
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