To be a great communicator you must be a great listener. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, listening to what others say is twice as important as what we say!
If we have ever been upset with a boss, friend, or spouse, the chances are pretty high that there was a mis-communication to blame. And whether we like to admit it or not, good communication starts with us.
Never fear! Listening is a skill that we can develop, and with a little practice, we can become amazing communicators, and we might not have to endure as many arguments or misunderstandings!
Here are 6 suggestions to become a better listener:
1. Minimize Distractions – If you are in an office or private area, and it is appropriate, close the door to nullify outside noise. Put away your cell phone and don’t play with your watch or pens. If you need to, turn off your laptop or computer monitor, this builds a sense of focus and connection with the person you are listening to.
If you are in a public area, find a quiet place to sit or stand. Be mindful of outside distractions as you speak, it will be harder to focus if you are near a place with lots of sights and sounds, so be aware of where the conversation happens.
2. Make Eye Contact – Looking a person in the eyes can help put the speaker at ease, especially if you have a friendly look in your eyes. Be careful not to stare, but demonstrate that you are paying attention the other person. Make sure your expression communicates acceptance which shows that you are interested and committed to helping.
3. Practice Active Listening – Don’t finish people’s sentences, it comes off as arrogant and unsympathetic. Listen for to the other person for feelings, thoughts or ideas, attitudes about the situation, or opinions that they express. Pay attention to their body language, recurring themes or contradictions within the conversation.
4. Be Calm – If the other person is angry, agitated, shaken, or distraught the best thing you can do is be calm. Sometimes you just need project a feeling of calm so that the other person will eventually reflect it back to you, and that may help resolve any further conflict. Also avoid making any rash judgments or conclusions. Remember, it’s a conversation, not a contest!
5. Ask Clarifying Questions - Ask open-ended questions like how, what, when, where, but stay away from “why” questions which tend to put people on the defensive. Make sure to double-check what the speaker, thinks, feels, wants, and plans to do by paraphrasing what you heard back to the speaker. Do not ask too many questions. Spend a majority of your time listening.
6. Avoid All Judgment – When people talk to you, they want to share a part of themselves with you and gather your advice or assistance. The worst thing you can do is judge them for an opinion or action that they have expressed. If you are passing judgment and not listening, you may miss a very valuable piece of information and you may find yourself on the receiving end of some heated words instead of a pleasant conversation due to your ill timed judgment.
I hope these suggestions helped and over the next few days I would love to have a discussion with you about listening and communicating. The best way to communicate with me is through the comments section below this post. You can also send me an email or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, either way; I would love to talk more about communication.
What have you learned about listening and talking? Please share your ideas and let’s become great listeners and great communicators!