Developing Better Listening Skills

There are several steps you can take to learn to relax and have a great conversation with practically anybody. The most important step is effective listening.

by Michael Corthell

We 'hear' many things throughout our day. Much of it is discounted by our brains as ordinary 'noise'. Hearing however, is not the same as listening. What is most important, much more so in fact, is effective listening.
  • We listen to gather information.
  • We listen to comprehend.
  • We listen to have fun.
  • We listen to learn a new skill.
You would think with all the listening that we do, we'd be pretty good at it, in fact most of us are just not good listeners, and studies suggest that we remember only between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or especially your spouse you at most will 'get' half of the conversation.

''Effective listening means appreciating what's in front of you.''

Effective listening is simply paying attention to what is being said. It is also listening and giving our attention to the sounds around us.

Effective listening more clearly defined is the ability, skill and talent to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Listening is the number one communication skill and the one you should master listening first.

Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. By understanding your own style of communicating, you will go a long way towards creating good and lasting impressions with others.

The practice of listening.

Stop Talking. Don't talk, listen. When somebody else is talking listen to what is being said. Don't interrupt. When they finish you may need to clarify what was said but don't interrupt the flow. 

Relax and focus on the speaker. Shut your mind to other things. We are easily distracted by other thoughts – what’s for supper etc. Put other thoughts out of your mind and concentrate on the person speaking.

Put the speaker at ease. Remember they have a need to tell you something. Nod a little or use other body language or words to encourage them to continue. Maintain eye contact to show that you are listening and understanding what is being said, but don’t stare.

Empathize and try to understand the other person’s point of view. Look at issues from their viewpoint. Keep an open mind. Discuss differences of opinion later.

Practice Patience. A pause_________doesn't necessarily mean that the speaker has finished. Be patient and let the speaker continue. Sometimes it takes time to think of what to say and how to say it. Never interrupt and never, ever finish a sentence for someone.

Listen for ideas, not just words. Get the whole picture, not just bits and pieces of ideas. One of the most difficult parts of listening is the ability to link together pieces of information to reveal the ideas of others. 

Last and most certainly not least watch the speaker's Body Language. We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes. Non-verbal communication is as important as the spoken word. Look for gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements that are being expressed. Look and pick up the additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication.

If you find it extremely difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying to you, try repeating their words mentally as they say them, this will reinforce their message and help you stay focused.

Five Ways to Listen Better

by Julian Treasure

In our louder and louder world, says sound expert Julian Treasure, "We are losing our listening." In this short, fascinating talk, Treasure shares five ways to re-tune your ears for conscious listening -- to other people and the world around you. More information.