While it is easy to assume that good speakers and public orators are outstanding communicators, these individuals may not have exceptional listening skills. This is a core communication skill, however, and one that studies suggest is continually in decline in workplaces across the globe.
These studies underline two things. Firstly, they suggest that listening skills are suffering amid the remote communication techniques of the digital age. Secondly, they underline the difference between hearing and listening, as while we may hear what others say we do not necessarily understand or empathise with the speaker.
In this respect, listening is a rare and special communication skill that is important in all walks of life. Virgin founder Richard Branson also believes that strong leaders must have excellent listening skills, so here are eight signs that you are blessed in this discipline: –
Empathy is central to good listening, primarily because it enables individuals to truly understand opposing viewpoints. They are also compelled to hear their conversation partners’ out without imparting their own views, making it easier to achievable a beneficial resolution going forward.
The concept of empathetic listening also underpins mutual trust between individuals, and this is pivotal in both personal and professional relationships.
Similarly, a good listener does not interrupt others’ flow by interjecting with their own stories or insights. Instead, they ask follow-up questions based on what they have just heard, encouraging others to continue to share in an open and frank manner.
If you friend is talking to you about how bad their boss is, for example, emphasise with statements such as ‘oh, that’s a shame’ before asking question such as ‘what did they do?” This allows the conversation to develop organically and to the benefit of both parties.
Let’s face facts, we have all participated in discussions where we have minimal interest. Great listeners have an innate ability to respond meaningfully and positively in such conversations, however, as they hone in on relevant points of interest and determine the main snipets of information.
Such points would also trigger key questions, while great listeners will also repeat certain things that they hear to reinforce their participation in the conversation.
Good listeners tend to be emotionally intelligent, meaning that they are sensitive to their feelings and those of the people around them. This means that they do not react angrily or impulsively to criticism or specific points of disagreement, and instead remain objective until their conversation partner has finished talking.
These emotional responses will be replaced with objective questions, which are designed to learn more and develop far greater insight.
Listening is a broad and fluid art, and one that involves far more than words alone. You must also consider the meaning of tone, gestures and facial experessions, as these also convey messages and help you to understand how those around you are feeling.
Similarly, you also need to link specific words and thoughts to reveal overall themes and ideas. This demands concentration and focus, but it enables you to use your listening skills to maximise the creativity and cooperation of others.
When interacting with others, great listeners consider this to be a tremendous learning process in terms of understanding others and driving self-improvement. Not only this but they also appreciate the process of learning through listening, while continuing to process data as they communicate with others.
Appreciation is crucial, as this helps to maintain your engagement levels and truly benefit from the lessons that are available through the wisdom of others.
On a similar note, great listeners also use their own body languages and gestures to underline their engagement with speakers. This entails maintaining eye contact with speakers and undertaking affirmative gestures such as nodding, as you empower others to share their thoughts and reassure them that their voice is being heard.
From my own experience, this also helps the listener too. I recently attended a conference which discussed a rise in the sale of motorhomes, and while listening I made sure to maintain eye contact with the speaker. This enabled me to process information quickly and easily, while also ensuring that underlying messages were also clearly understood.
As strange as it may sound, accepting your shortcomings as a listener is key to optimising your skills and improving in the future. This reflects the fact that no single individual can pick on everything that everyone is saying all of the time, and we must compromise by learning from our respective failures and accepting our imperfections.
The key is that you maintain the intention of listening to others at all time, and forgive yourself in instances where you fail or miss the point of what people are saying. Without this attitude, you will struggle to develop your skills and instead spend your time berating yourself for failures.
Ultimately, these points should help you to understand truth about listening skills and appreciate your own abilities. It may also offer you inspiration to improve in the future, as you look to become a more studious, thoughtful and most importantly good listener.
Featured photo credit: Dumb Little Man via dumblittleman.com
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