Have you ever met someone who was an absolute joy to talk to, but you couldn’t pinpoint why? Did your conversations breeze through and you felt a real connection with them? More often than not, it’s because they were simply a good listener.
The fact of the matter is, the majority of communication problems stem from our ineffectiveness in listening over speaking. Ironically, most of us consider ourselves a good listener – even as we text, surf the internet and check out emails mid conversation!
Recent research shone the spotlight on the magnitude of this misaligned perception. Almost all respondents believed themselves to be good listeners, yet with further questioning, admitted to being easily distracted and constantly multitasking.
Communication problems are on the rise in this modern era and technology is partly to blame. While it’s a blessing for convenience, it’s also a source of constant distraction, keeping us searching for simulation. As a result, our communication skills are slowly eroding.
Rebuild Communication Skills and Become a Good Listener
Focusing on improving listening skills goes a long way for overall communication. To help you break old habits, here are four key principles for you to use. Recall them before speaking and everyone will love speaking to you!
1. Encourage the Speaker to Elaborate
Ever started sharing a story with someone, only to have them interject with “yeah me too” and then take charge of the conversation? If so, you probably felt cut off and a little annoyed.
Whereas, if you had spoken to a good listener, they would have shown genuine interest by encouraging you to share more about your experience.
So, if your friend was to begin explaining grievance such as “I hate my boss at work”, don’t fire back with “my boss is so bad too!”. Instead, to show you are actively interested and listening, encourage them to share more with a phrase like, “Really? What’s the story then?”.
2. Show Interest By Capturing Key Points
Sometimes, conversations move to onto subjects of which we have little interest, leaving us with little to contribute. We often ignore as much of the conversation as possible, before switching the subject. Even with our best efforts, the speaker will know you’re not interested in what they have to say.
Instead, you can quickly demonstrate yourself as a good listener by capturing key points raised, retelling them or raising relevant questions. Even if the subject flies over your head, this will show you’re still interested in listening to what they have to say.
Let’s say your friend is passionately recalling all the cars he’s owned. You will probably feel completely uninterested and out of your depth, but you could still show your listening by asking, “Which one was your favorite?”, “What made that one so special?” etc.
3. Remember To Express Empathy Over Creativity
As we listen to others speak, we often find ourselves chomping at the bit to inject our own ideas or advice on the matter. But if we are not careful, over enthusiasm can demonstrate a lack of understanding.
Good listeners always place empathy above creativity during conversations. They pay attention to the other’s emotions and feelings before adding.
To become an empathic listener, try placing yourself in the other person’s position and relating to them. If in doubt, remember this basic principle: seek to understand, before being understood.
4. Always Keep Your Emotions in Check
If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves reacting directly out of emotion. If we receive criticism or hear something we don’t like, it’s easy to snap back with “Yes. I know what you’re going to say” or “No. I’m not like that”. This amplifies friction and can even lead to communication breakdowns.
Shifting emotional responses into rational questions is the hallmark of a good listener. Keeping the conversation civilized shows a willingness to listen and you’ll be widely respected.
If someone makes a comment you don’t agree with, always keep your cool. Calmly encourage them to share their opinion forming experiences with you. Interact through genuine curiosity and they’ll appreciate your tact.
You will be amazed how far your communication skills will go by focusing on becoming a good listener. If you can stick to these 4 simple rules, others will be compelled to talk to you!