Distracted? No Problem. Here are 5 Ways to Improve Your Listening
How many times have you heard someone say, “You never listen to me!” Then the reply comes, “I heard you!” There’s a communication disconnect somewhere. While you may know that a person is talking and hear some words, it doesn’t mean you’re listening. Listening has its own skill set that can greatly improve communication and relationships.
To properly listen, you must hear, interpret, and understand. The following recommendations will help you to listen more effectively and to remember the conversations.
Focus on the speaker
Usually, we go into conversations with good intentions. We intend to listen, or maybe we’re convinced that we can listen while multitasking. Good intentions to listen do not equal listening. Look at the speaker. Avoid being distracted. If you’re in a distracting location, suggest moving or setting a time to talk. Allow the speaker to finish talking before you respond. Lastly, don’t think about your own response. If you’re thinking of your response, you aren’t listening.
Ask questions for understanding
It’s easy to hear words without being able to understand or grasp their intended meaning. You may be listening to an informational conversation or an emotional one. Your mind must interpret the words into what they really mean, how important they are, and what type of response, if any, is needed. Ask questions to clarify what you’ve heard. Keep the questions open-ended, meaning that they can’t be answered a simple “yes” or “no.” Let the person add, describe, and explain.
We all have our own thoughts and biases. Sometimes, when someone begins to speak, we assume we know what they’re going to say or what they mean by it. It’s not always true. A conversation can go in an unexpected direction. Even if it doesn’t, the speaker will have unique points to make and assumptions may block you from hearing them.
Paraphrase important speaker points
When you hear important points or expressed emotions, take a few minutes to reword the gist of what you heard. Say things like, “So you’re upset that your manager gave the assignment to someone else,” or “I want to make sure I heard you right that 22 dogs need homes.” If you got the emotion or information wrong, the speaker can restate it. Otherwise, you’re showing the speaker you’ve listened and reinforcing key points in your mind.
We have various reasons to want to remember a conversation. Maybe we’ll talk to the speaker again and expect them to bring up the topic. A follow up conversation may be planned, or you may need the information in the talk for something. Paraphrasing is a good start toward remembering. You can write notes or make a phone recording of your mental notes. To keep details fresh, don’t wait long before recording.
Do these listening skills seem like common sense? We’ve heard them time and time again. Putting them into practice is the trick that works to become a better listener.
About Paula Morand
Paula Morand is a 14x multi-award-winning entrepreneur and professional speaker who is passionate about helping speakers and experts be seen, be heard and grow their impact. She is the founder of Silver Street Studios, a boutique branding agency and production studio catering to speakers, coaches and professionals with state-of-the-art stage, sound, photography and video capabilities. Featured on Lifetime Television, Success Magazine, Profit Magazine and the Financial Post, Paula is recognized as a global change maker. Paulamorand.com