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8 Signs You’re Good At Communication With Listening

8 Signs You’re Good At Communication With Listening

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.

8 Signs you are Good at Listening

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: –

1. You have Strong Empathy as a Good Listener

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.

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The concept of empathetic listening also underpins mutual trust between individuals, and this is pivotal in both personal and professional relationships.

2. You ask follow-up questions

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.

3. You Know how to respond across all topics

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.

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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.

4. You do not react angrily to criticism or points of disagreements

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.

5. You think beyond Words to truly understand your conversation partners

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.

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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.

6. You appreciate listening as a Learning Process

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.

7. You use your Body Language to show you are engaged

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.

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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.

8. You realise your shortcomings as a Listener

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. 

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Featured photo credit: Dumb Little Man via dumblittleman.com

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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