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Published on May 28, 2020

7 Keys to Effective Listening

7 Keys to Effective Listening

You hear all the time how important effective communication is. It’s critically important in your career and the same holds true for marriage or any long term partnership.

If you’ve read any of my other articles on this website, you’ll know I am a huge proponent of strong communication skills. I have seen over and over again how clear and effective communication has helped people in many phases of their lives.

Here is something that so many of us forget: listening is half of all communication.

It’s great to be able to articulate your thoughts and ideas clearly, but it’s just as important to have effective listening skills.

Let’s take a look at how important effective listening is and along the way, I’ll share with you 7 keys to effective listening. Read on to learn how to become a powerful listener.

Why Listening Skills Are Important

Unfortunately, many of us can only listen just long enough to form our own responses to what is being said, then we stop listening.

Why is that? Because we have all the information we need to share our own opinion. Needless to say, this isn’t effective listening, not by a long shot. Listening skills are vital in communication.

Deep down one of our greatest pleasures is feeling understood by another person. We can’t feel truly understood by another person unless we feel they are really listening to us. But once we feel that they are, it allows us to open up and share what we want to.

We can do this because the sense of someone seriously listening to us makes us trust the other person. I don’t have to tell you how much trust can help strengthen a relationship – it’s critically important. When you combine the listening with a nice dose of empathy, it creates an even stronger bond.

Being an effective listener also benefits the listener. When we take the time to truly understand the other person, it allows us to gain a deeper understanding of what is being said and where the other person is coming from.

We’ve already discussed how the person speaking will feel better understood and want to trust us. This in and of itself helps us gain an ally and better partner, whether it’s in a personal or a business relationship.

But there’s even more upside to being a great listener. We learn more and open up our horizons.

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It’s too easy to get trapped inside our little world and look at things through our own lens of the world. But when we listen to another person, we can learn something new and sometimes, see the world through a new set of eyes. How cool is that?

What Makes a Good Listener?

Now that we know why listening skills are so important, let’s take a look at what makes a good listener.

We all know how easy it is to pay partial attention to what someone is saying. This happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s the simple ongoing chatter inside our heads. Other times we are distracted thinking about another topic entirely. And sometimes we feel we’ve heard enough from the speaker to form our own response, so we are just waiting for them to take a break so we can get our 2 cents in. This isn’t being a very good listener.

Besides showing some of the keys to effective listening below, good listeners, in general, tend to be empathetic and listen with an open mind. They don’t allow their preformed opinions to color what they are hearing.

Good listeners are usually emotionally intelligent, so they are not only aware of their feelings but also perceptive of how others feel. They usually do a good job of asking follow-up questions – another good sign that they are listening.

They ask these questions as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of others. A good listener is okay with being uncomfortable. They can allow silence to go on while the other person thinks about what they are going to say and don’t get defensive. These are some of the traits of a good listener.

What Is Effective Listening?

Effective listening skills allow us to actively understand the information provided by the person speaking. Effective listening also has to do with showing a genuine interest in the topic being discussed.

Many times, it also includes providing the speaker with input and feedback along the way, as well as asking thought-provoking, insightful questions to gain a full understanding of the subject. Asking these incisive questions also shows the speaker that the listener truly understands what is being said and can empathize with the speaker.

Sounds like powerful stuff right? Read on for some of the benefits of effective listening.

What Are the Benefits of Effective Listening?

Effective listening will reward all parties involved in many ways, here are a few.

Effective Listening Builds Trust

This is probably the most important benefit of effective listening.

Remember, when someone feels like they are truly being listened to and understood, it’s only natural for them to begin to develop trust for the person listening. Or if the relationship already has a basis of trust, it only serves to strengthen it.

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Productivity Goes Up

This is key in the workplace. Just think about how much more productive you could be in your job if there was all-around clear communication. That alone would help it shoot through the roof!

Add in working with a group of folks who are effectively listening and understanding each other and you’ve got a recipe for super productivity.

Better Relationships

It almost goes without saying that if you are communicating with effective listeners regularly, it will forge stronger relationships. Again, the ability to feel like you are being truly heard and understood creates tighter and more meaningful relationships.

Greater Problem Solving

Remember that old saying two heads are better than one? What that means is that most of the time, 2 people can solve a problem better than one person on their own.

The logic is simple: two people can look at the same problem or challenge from different angles, different sets of eyes, and different experiences from which to draw on. When people are listening and understanding each other, the ability to solve problems is greatly enhanced.

Now let’s get to the really good part – 7 keys to effective listening.

7 Keys to Effective Listening

1. Be Attentive and Relaxed

Probably the most important part of effective listening is being attentive. Be present and at the moment with the person you are listening to.

Follow along with the words and thoughts they are sharing to build the full picture. Do your best to block out distractions, whether that’s street noise or your internal thoughts.

You don’t want to be attentive to the point of staring unblinkingly and not moving at the person while they are speaking. That can get unnerving. You want to temper your attentiveness with being relaxed as well. This will help the other person feel more at ease.

And speaking of staring unblinkingly at the other person. . .

2. Maintain Eye Contact and Face the Other Person

You’ll want to keep regular eye contact with the person speaking and have your body facing towards them.

Again, the regular eye contact doesn’t mean you are staring directly at them without batting an eyelid for minutes on end. It means, in general, you are keeping your eyes focused on them and their eyes.

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You don’t want your eyes darting to your phone or your computer screen. That takes away your attention.

You’ll also want to have your body facing the other person most of the time. It’s a non-verbal way of communicating that you are paying attention to and listening to them.

3. Listen and Paint a Picture

While you are listening attentively, allow your mind to paint a mental picture of what is being said. This could be a literal picture in your mind or it may be more abstract involving concepts and ideas.

When you combine listening attentively with your mind creating a mental picture, it will help you gain greater clarity around what is being said, as well as build a more lasting impression in your mind.

4. Do Not Interrupt

One of the surest ways to create choppy communication is by interrupting.

Think about when you’ve been in a verbal fight with someone and you both keep interrupting each other to get your point across. Nobody ever gets to fully vocalize about what is upsetting them.

The same concept holds true here. Don’t interrupt the other person while they are talking. It conveys the message that you don’t care what they are saying and that you think what you have to say is more important than what they have to say.

Speaking of having your turn to talk. . .

5. Ask Questions to Clarify and Understand

When the person you are talking to stops talking and indicates you can take a turn, you want to use your words to good effect. The goal here is to ask clarifying questions that will help you understand fully what the other person is saying.

Again, wait until the other person stops talking before asking your questions. Do not interrupt them to inject your point of view or ask off-topic questions. Asking tangential type questions can easily take the conversation down a completely different path.

We see this happen all the time during everyday conversations. Someone is telling us about an adventure they went on and mentions a restaurant they went to. Someone else then asks a question about that restaurant and BOOM, the conversation turns to a discussion of restaurants.

Don’t be that person.

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6. Keep an Open Mind

Another of the 7 keys to effective listening is to keep an open mind. It’s important to listen with an impartial mind and not mentally judge the person speaking to you.

To truly hear someone and to give them a chance to fully share what they are talking about, you must keep an open mind. If they say something that gives you pause or raises some concerns, keep it to yourself for the time being.

Now is not the time to be forming judgments or making assumptions based on what is being said. Keep your mind open to allow them to speak freely and for you to listen fully.

7. Try to Feel What the Other Person is Feeling

Now we get to the part where you are working to empathize with the speaker. Do your best to put yourself in their shoes and see the situation from their vantage point.

To get a good depth of understanding, you’ll need to do your best to put yourself in as close to a mindset as the other person is. This isn’t easy, and it does take work.

If you’ve gotten to the point where you are feeling happy when they seem to be happy or sad when they are, you’ve done a great job of really understanding what they are telling you to the point of feeling similar.

Conclusion

As a reminder, listening is half of all communication.

Being a good listener takes practice and some work, but it’s well worth it. You’ll gain greater clarity with your interactions with other people you interact with. This benefits both your professional and personal life.

Imagine having clear communication with the people in all areas of your life. Sounds great, right?

Be sure to use these 7 keys to effective listening to greatly improve your communication and relationships with others.

More Effective Listening Tips

Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Reinvent Yourself and Change Your Life

How to Reinvent Yourself and Change Your Life

There will always be times in your life when you may need to learn how to reinvent yourself. This could come when you experience a big change, such as leaving your job, moving on from a relationship, transferring to a new home, or losing a loved one. If you are going through a major shift in your life, you may have to find new ways of thinking or doing things, or risk failing to reach your full potential.

“When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”

Many people who dared to leave their old unhappy lives enabled themselves to pursue their passions and find a renewed zest for living. You can also achieve the same if you take a leap of faith and make things happen for yourself.

To help you always be at your best wherever you may be in your life, here are some practical tips on how to reinvent yourself.

The Reinvention Checklist

Before embarking on a journey of self-reinvention, you need to make sure that you have everything that you need to make the trip bump-proof. These things include:

Resilience

Problems and obstacles are guaranteed to happen. Some of them will be difficult and may knock you off course; the important thing, however, is that you learn from these difficulties, never lose focus, and always get back up. This requires building resilience to get through the tough times.

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Support

Humans are social beings. Although it is important that you learn to rely on yourself when facing any challenge, it is also important to have a support team that you can lean on to give you a boost when things get too tough and to correct you when you’re making mistakes.

The key is to find the right balance between independence and dependence. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share the difficulties you’re facing. When you open up, you’ll find the people who are really going to be there for you.

Self-Care

During the process of learning how to reinvent yourself, you will have to pull yourself away from your old comfort zones, habits, roles, and self-perceptions. This can be difficult and cause you to question your self-worth, so it’s important to engage in self-care to maintain a positive outlook and keep your mind and body healthy as you face the challenges that await you. Self-care can include:

  • Participating in a hobby you enjoy
  • Spending time with your support system
  • Taking some time to walk in nature
  • Practicing loving-kindness meditation

Find what works for you and what helps you feel like your true self as you seek a reinvented version of you.

How to Reinvent Yourself

Once you’re sure that you’re equipped with all the tools in the self-reinvention checklist, you can begin your journey of learning how to reinvent yourself.

1. Discover Your Strengths

This step provides valuable information on how you deal with certain situations. If you have this information, you will be able to manage difficulties more efficiently.

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To find out what your strengths are, you can ask your friends and colleagues for feedback, engage in self-reflection, or try these 10 Ways to Find Your Own Personal Strengths.

2. Plan

This step calls for a thorough assessment of your current emotional, psychological, and financial status so that you can develop plans that are realistic and practical.

It’s okay to have ambitious dreams, but your plans have to be realistic. Making use of SMART goals can help you plan your life better.

You can also consult your mentor or life coach for practical tips and advice.

Ultimately, you’ll want to create specific long-term and short-term goals that you can create milestones for. By doing this, you’ll lay out a specific roadmap to your reinvented self.

3. Try Things Out

Sometimes, we don’t know if solutions actually work until we try them out. This is why it is important to experiment whenever possible, especially if you’re dealing with a career change. You may need to simply experiment in order to find the things you like. This can be the same with hobbies. If you’re not sure what you would like doing, accept invitations from friends to join them in their favorite sport or take a class, like pottery or photography.

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By seeing what’s out there in any area of your life, you’ll have a better chance of finding the things you enjoy and the goals you want to create.

4. Manage Your Finances Well

Changes may require a bit of money. If you’re shifting to a new career, you may have to pay for training. If you’re going through a tough divorce or having a hard time dealing with the death of a loved one, you may have to pay for therapy. If you’re moving to a new home, you’ll definitely have to pay a whole lot of expenses.

All of these things are possible, but it will require a bit of money savviness as you learn how to reinvent yourself. If you have that cushion, you’ll feel more comfortable straying from your current path to try new things.

5. Muster Your Courage

Fears and self-doubt may arise when you encounter difficulties and setbacks. Sometimes, they may also come when you’re taking risks. You have to manage these negative emotions well and not allow them to discourage you. Tap into your courage and try doing at least one new thing each week to develop it.

Learn how to deal with your self-doubts to move forward in this article: How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It)

6. Use Your Support Group

As stated above, you need to build a strong support group before you even start the process of reinventing yourself. Your group will keep you from taking wrong turns and encourage you when you get too weighed down by problems. Don’t be afraid to call them, or even ask them out for coffee if you need to vent about the current difficulties you’re facing.

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7. Remind Yourself Every Day of Your Commitment

Write your goals on different-sized cards and scatter them at home and at work in places where you can easily see them. This way, you will constantly be reminded of where you want to be. Remember, writing down your goals helps them stick[1].

8. Accept Failure, Learn, and Resume Your Journey

Failing is normal, especially when we’re trying out something new. When you fail, simply recognize it, learn from it, and move on. Failure, in the end, is the best way to learn what does and doesn’t work, and you simply won’t be able to learn how to reinvent yourself if you don’t accept the inevitable failures that await you.

Final Thoughts

If you truly want to learn how to reinvent yourself and live the life you desire, take the advice above and start taking action. It will take time, patience, and plenty of effort to make the change you want happen, but it will be all worth it.

More Tips on How to Reinvent Yourself

Featured photo credit: Ashley Rich via unsplash.com

Reference

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