It seems that the pace and complexity of communication today has created an almost hectic need to get your point made and accomplish your own agenda. What this leaves out, though, is the importance and need to listen to other people. When your goal is simply to honor your personal needs, you focus on manipulating the conversation so that you “win” by saying what you came there to say.
This is a fine way to approach communicating if the world in which you live is never changing, you already know everything, and you are doing the right thing all the time. Since that description applies to literally NO ONE on this planet, it is time we worked on our listening skills.
Being open to new information, alternate perspectives, and different solutions is what enables you to continue growing and reaching for new goals in life. And you cannot do that without learning to listen.
Listen to Learn
When was the last time you listened so carefully to someone that you learned something new or saw things from a new viewpoint? Most of the time, we are hearing out of courtesy, not curiosity. Pretending to listen or just being polite will make it appear as though you are listening but will help you learn anything from others. Instead of approaching a conversation with a mind set on your agenda, try asking yourself, “What things can this person teach me?”
Starting each day with a mindset focused on curiosity and learning can help you become a better listener.
Ask More Questions
Whether you are practicing curiosity or not, asking more and better questions can also help you become a better listener. Asking questions gives the other person the space to provide you with their truth, and when the spotlight is off you, you can focus on attending to their words and meaning. Open-ended questions can help you see new perspectives or elicit explanations that people would not have considered giving had you simply asked a yes-no question.
Be Aware of Body Language
When the other person changes their tone, posture, or eye contact, this tells you a great deal about their comfort level or mood. But when you are not paying attention to these cues, you miss this essential information.
Paying attention to body language provides you with much more information about the intent, context, and emotional content of the message being sent. Learn to carefully observe these non-verbal messages if you want to improve your listening skills.
Take Time to Reflect
If you want to become a better listener, learn to stop and think about what was just said before giving a response. Living with pauses and silence is becoming almost a lost art in today’s world, but when you stop and reflect on others’ words, you give yourself time to process what you learned as well as formulate a more cogent response.
When you start responding more slowly, your conversation partner will notice, and they, in turn, may slow down their responses, too. This can change the entire conversation with one simple strategy.
Listen More than You Talk
When you are talking within others, try to listen twice as much as you speak. The only way to get better at listening is to listen more. And when you are the one doing all the talking, you cannot improve your skills. A two-to-one ratio of listening to talking helps you focus on others’ ideas and views and gives you more time to think about what you are learning and what you can really add to the exchange, as well.