Listening is a very precious, soft skill. We all think it is easy to listen and comprehend what is being said, but what do you remember from your previous conversation?
Most people will be familiar with “zoning out” during conversations. You try to focus and understand what the person is talking about but instead for one reason you start thinking about something else, or you follow the fly which is buzzing by your head, and by the time you get back to your focus, you’ve missed part of the conversation.
First of all, let’s understand the difference between hearing and listening. Many people would say they are listening all day, in fact, they’re only hearing and not listening. To know and understand how to listen, you need to comprehend what’s being said, reflect on it and consider non-verbal communication. Only then you can assure people you are listening.
Secondly, it’s hard to be 100% focussed during a conversation when the only thing you can think about is your agenda. Listening has become more difficult due to stress, hectic schedules and the need to accomplish our overloaded agenda. Try to clear your mind for a second before you start listening. Give your mind a break and focus on something else.
A good tip to clear your mind before a meeting, for example, is just by walking outside for a minute, grab some fresh air and focus on your breathing pattern, it’ll relieve stress and clarify your thoughts!
Here are some other tips and tricks to try in order to become a better listener.
1. Listen out of curiosity
Try to set yourself a goal for the day, wonder what you are interested in and what you want to learn about. Talk to people and find out what they are doing for work or holidays, it might be useful in the future.
2. Make eye-contact
Eye contact is important within a conversation. It doesn’t only show you’re focussed on what your speaker is saying, it also shows you are actively listening.
3. Jumping to give advice
Familiar with the feeling of responding while the person has not even ended their sentence? Feeling this need to “one-up” the speaker so you can talk about your own experience?
This happens daily without anyone noticing they are actually doing this. Listen carefully to fully comprehend the situation. This way you’ll be able to acknowledge the feelings and thoughts of the person.
Repeating is one very common exercise everyone does in order to check if they have understood. You try to focus as much as possible and force yourself to be attentive. This way you make sure you don’t leave important details out.
5. Ask questions
Asking questions is key! You’re not only showing that you are actively listening, you’re showing that you’re interested in the subject as well. Be careful, this does not mean you need to ask questions after every sentence, just make sure you are reasonable, don’t digress from the subject.
6. Put your phone away!
Phones are the number one distraction. We have become addicted to them, and they have become a distraction for us. Therefore, putting your phone away is a great start. It will not only give your mind and eyes a break from the screen it will let you center your focus on a new element, in this case, the speaker. You’ll have a better understanding of the topic, you’ll zone out less and retain most of the information that you receive.
Think of it as a win-win situation. If you put some effort into actively listening, noticing body language and voice tone, they’ll be glad to listen to you too. A soft skill can be developed and will bring you many advantages in the future. You’ll gain socially from it as you actually create relationships with people, you’ll also gain from it in personal development.