Being a good listener can enhance our personal and business relationships in many ways. That’s why good listening skills are a real superpower.
Having good listening skills is very important in all of our interactions with others. Listening well can make the difference between a situation resulting in failure or success. Good listening skills are important in intimate and family relationships because they help to foster trust, understanding and close bonds. In work situations, projects go more smoothly when everyone gets a chance to air their views and feel heard.
Listening well can also give you a chance to read someone better. If you take the time to listen, you can really find out how a person is feeling, what might be some of their worries or concerns and what is going well with them. It is also easier to spot someone who is hiding behind a persona or trying to mislead you when you pay close attention to what they say.
So improving your listening skills can make a huge difference to how you communicate with others and the resulting relationships and success that you experience in life.
If you would like to develop really good listening skills, try out these 7 tips:
1. Avoid distractions
Nothing says ‘I’m not really listening’ quite like someone checking their phone or looking around the room. If you do this, you will make the other person feel that you do not value them or their ideas. This will have an effect on their confidence and self-esteem as well as damage the trust in your relationship. So, when you are having a conversation with someone, set aside any distractions and focus on what they have to say.
Your own mind can be one of the worse distractions, especially if you let it spend the whole time thinking up what to say next. Try to wait until the other person has finished their part of the conversation before you think up what to say. There is nothing wrong with having a pause before you reply as this shows you have been listening and so need time to formulate a response.
2. Respond appropriately
Having said all this, it is okay to interrupt someone on some occasions. When listening, we are sometimes told not to interrupt. However, interrupting someone to ask for clarification or find out more can actually enhance the sense of being listened to.
After all, if you can ask a question about what someone has said, it is clear that you have been listening closely. Even if you don’t need to ask a question, respond to what the other person is saying by nodding, smiling or making agreeing noises as appropriate.
3. Listen without looking
A recent study has shown that people listen better when they are not actually looking at the other person. The study found that participants were better able to interpret the emotions of their partner when they just listened to the other person and didn’t focus on facial expressions.
This one can be a bit hard to practice, but it is sometimes possible to listen while working together on a task with someone. Awkward conversations can go better when there is not a face-to-face contact, which can be a bit intimidating.
This is also a great tactic when talking to our children, particularly boys, who often talk more when they are not being confronted directly.
“Boys, particularly, seem to open up a bit more when they’re sitting beside you rather than face-to-face. So keep your ears open when you’re alone with him on a car ride or working on a project together at the kitchen table,” says Laurie Zelinger, Ph.D., a child psychologist.
4. Put yourself in their shoes
When you try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it helps you to understand their position better. In this way, you are focusing on them, rather than how you feel about what they are saying. When you act in an empathetic way, it makes it easier to offer a compassionate response. This will help build a stronger relationship.
5. Apologize if you go wrong
Sometimes we will say the wrong thing. We will put our foot in our mouths, or lose concentration. If this happens, simply apologize and start again. The worst thing you can do is try to cover up your mistake or bluff your way through the rest of the conversation. The other person will know and you will lose their trust.
6. Have an open mind
If you go into a conversation with the sole intention of changing the other person’s mind, you will miss out on an opportunity to learn.
Conversely, if you remain open-minded, you might learn something new and at the very least will understand the other person better. This doesn’t mean you have to change your mind in the end. But remaining open helps discussions to be more fruitful all round.
7. Don’t be defensive
It’s easy to listen carefully when we are hearing good things. However, when someone is disagreeing with us or criticizing us, it can be much more difficult. Often we find ourselves getting defensive when this happens.
This is when it is really important to continue to listen. Let the person have their say and try not to be defensive. Then take a moment before responding appropriately.
Good communication and listening skills are so important to all of our interactions in life. The simple act of listening can make a huge difference to our relationships with our partners, parents, and children as well as our friends and colleagues. This is why good listening skills are well worth developing.