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8 Ways To Become A Good Listener

8 Ways To Become A Good Listener

When you are spoken to do you just hear or do you actually listen? It is a common misconception that when we hear someone speak we are automatically listening to what they are saying. For example, how frustrating is it when you are talking to someone as they type away on their phone? Imagine those times when you confided in a loved one and all they did was up to you and say “Huh? Can you repeat that?”

The truth is listening is a lot like reading. It involves concentrating on what the other person is saying and grasping the full meaning and impact of their words. The best leadership experts in the world excel at this skill. A lot of times when we read something difficult we attempt to skim, or simply don’t understand what we just read. Likewise, many people who unconsciously hear rather than listen fail to grasp the gist of the conversation.

Here are eight ways you can become a good listener today:

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1. Self assess

Ask yourself, “Am I really the ____ I want to be?” Whether you are trying to become a better person, employee, husband, friend, whatever it is, listening is important. Think of ways in which you can improve yourself and go for it. Think of the role listening has in self-improvement, in understanding direction, in family life, etc. Remind yourself that it is important to listen to constructive criticism and refrain from being defensive.

2. Remove distractions

It is a known fact that humans’ brains tune out much of what is heard in the immediate environment. As a matter of fact, you are still hearing things even as you sleep. According to auditory neurologist, Seth S. Horowitz, concentrating to pay attention is what makes listening that much more difficult than just hearing. You need to realize that you cannot pay attention to everything at once. You can’t read that email from your mother and listen to your manager’s instructions at the same time. To be a good listener you have to give the person speaking your full and undivided attention.

3. It’s not about you

Becoming a better listener involves understanding that this person wants to be heard, not listen to you. Do not interrupt them. Hold on to any comments or questions until the end. Wait until this person is done speaking to begin a conversation. How are you to be well informed without the whole story? Keep this in mind and don’t start to talk until the other person is finished.

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4. Get rid of the “me too” habit

When someone tells you a story, you should share your own right? Not always. It’s like that one time you told someone you were going on vacation to India for two weeks only to have them go off on a tangent about their adventures there while studying abroad. Attempting to ‘one up’ someone’s story or cutting them to interject with your own shows the person you are speaking to that you are not interested in listening to what they have to say. Stop it and listen, just listen.

5. Watch your body language

It’s not only about listening but looking like you are listening. If you’ve found that you’ve removed all distractions and are still having a hard time digesting the conversation, think of your body language. Are you looking past the speaker? Are you fiddling with your sleeves? Don’t. Look at their face, nod a few times, lean slightly toward them and don’t cross your arms. Train yourself to listen with your whole body, not just your ears.

6. Focus on the speaker

If you are speaking to someone on the phone, turn away from your computer. If you are speaking through an online program, close your door. Likewise, if you are speaking to this person up close and personal, it is important that you make eye contact. Not only will it make them feel important, it will help you grasp the urgency of the matter.

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7. Mentally Paraphrase

OK, so not all the people we talk to have the most interesting or understandable things to say. If you find yourself having issues paying attention to what someone is saying, try mentally paraphrasing important points. Not only will this help you stay focused, it will force you to pay attention.

8. Ask relevant questions

There is no better way to show you listened than to pick up on loose ends and ask about them. Asking an open ended question or many to clear any doubts or possible misconceptions. Chances are the person speaking to you will be delighted to answer. Not only do questions open up discussion about possible flashpoints, they also allow for smoother flowing conversations.

Throughout this process, keep in mind that listening is a key process when it comes to creating meaningful relationships. People who feel like you’ve listened, are more likely to appreciate your efforts whether they be professional or simply a matter of self-improvement.

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Listening, really listening is difficult when there are so many distractions around us. Hopefully, using these 8 tips you’ll become known as a good listener.

Featured photo credit: flickr via flickr.com

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Joel Goldstein

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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