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7 Things Truly Amazing Listeners Do Differently

7 Things Truly Amazing Listeners Do Differently

“We are given two ears, but only one mouth. This is because God knew that listening was twice as hard as talking.” — Anon

How many times have you switched off when somebody is talking to you? This is just one of the questions you should ask yourself if you think that you are a really good listener. Great listening skills are the foundations for effective communication in every walk of life, be they politics, relationships, business, parenting, religion, or international diplomacy.

Here are the seven things that make truly amazing listeners stand out from the crowd. When you read these, you might have to redefine your status of being a great listener, or you might just be able to pat yourself on the back.

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1. They really listen

You know the scene. You mention a curious fact or somebody interesting you met at the weekend and want to tell your friend. The amazing listener will actually listen to what you have to say and will not take this as a cue to start off on their own weekend. This is what they do instead:

  • Encourage you to give more details by asking about why, when and where.
  • Give you their full attention and they never start sending texts while listening.
  • Ask for clarification without giving the impression that they know more or better.
  • They can gently probe to discover fears.

Read the following sample from a nurses’ training guide about how active listening works.

2. They restate in a helpful manner

Because they are really present and giving you their full attention, they can actually restate what you are saying when you are troubled, perplexed or doubtful. They will be able to reiterate the points that can help you reflect and summarize what you are trying to get across. They often use the expression, “I’m hearing that … but you feel …”

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3. They know how to use eye contact

They know how to maintain eye contact. They know instinctively that it is a great help in keeping all the visual distractions at bay. There is nothing worse than a listener who fails to make eye contact, or keeps on shifting his or her gaze around the room, especially at a party or official reception. When Bill Clinton met a journalist in South Africa, his eye contact was more than effective as recounted below:

“Clinton looked me in the eyes and seemed to have a genuine interest in what I was saying. His gaze never left me. He made me feel like the most important person in the room at the time, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates was standing right next to us!”

4. They use body language effectively

Great listeners usually use body language to send the right signals that they are listening. Here is what they are so good at:

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  • Nodding when appropriate.
  • Leaning forward when sitting down.
  • Rarely crossing arms as it can give the impression of defensiveness or closure.
  • Being conscious of how mouth, hands and facial expression can help the speaker.
  • Keeping fidgeting such as drumming fingers under control.
  • Expressing interest and curiosity without being over the top.

5. They can follow up on conversations

There is nothing worse than coming up against a colleague or acquaintance who cannot remember essential facts from a previous exchange. The amazing listener has all this worked out. He or she is skilled at recalling facts. They are often distinguished by the following openers:

  • I remember that you told me you were …
  • How is X coming along?
  • I know you were worried about Y. Have there been any developments?
  • What happened when you asked your boss for that raise?

6. They listen smarter

Let’s face it. These listeners have very few preconceived ideas about what they are going to hear. All too often, bias is the default position when we listen. We give too much importance to our inner voice.

But the skilled listeners approach the story and the storyteller with an open mind so that no time is wasted in getting rid of certain assumptions. They also know that the 80 percent listening time versus the 20 percent speaking time ratio is usually right. They also know that efficient listening is going to prevent misunderstandings and trouble later on. It pays to listen smarter.

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7. They look for the right environment

You know how difficult it is to talk to somebody on the phone or with a desk in front of you. The amazing listeners know that the right listening environment does make a difference. They usually:

  • Move from behind the desk to sit beside the speaker.
  • Remove any other obstacles so that communication is maximized.
  • Make every effort to meet face to face.
  • Always turn off devices and minimize possible interruptions.

Read how counselors are trained to create the right listening environment for troubled children. There are lots of useful tips here for any listening session.

Great listeners are on a winning streak. They have enormous advantages over those who talk too much, dominate conversations and have few empathetic skills. It’s a win-win situation if you really are an amazing listener.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie

Featured photo credit: Symphony of love/ BK and Ben Grey via flickr.com

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Published on July 17, 2018

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

I’ve never believed people are born productive or organized. Being organized and productive is a choice.

You choose to keep your stuff organized or you don’t. You choose to get on with your work and ignore distractions or you don’t.

But one skill very productive people appear to have that is not a choice is the ability to compartmentalize. And that takes skill and practice.

What is compartmentalization

To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you. Nothing gets past your barriers.

In psychology, compartmentalization is a defence mechanism our brains use to shut out traumatic events. We close down all thoughts about the traumatic event. This can lead to serious mental-health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if not dealt with properly.

However, compartmentalization can be used in positive ways to help us become more productive and allow us to focus on the things that are important to us.

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Robin Sharma, the renowned leadership coach, calls it his Tight Bubble of Total Focus Strategy. This is where he shuts out all distractions, turns off his phone and goes to a quiet place where no one will disturb him and does the work he wants to focus on. He allows nothing to come between himself and the work he is working on and prides himself on being almost uncontactable.

Others call it deep work. When I want to focus on a specific piece of work, I turn everything off, turn on my favourite music podcast The Anjunadeep Edition (soft, eclectic electronic music) and focus on the content I intend to work on. It works, and it allows me to get massive amounts of content produced every week.

The main point about compartmentalization is that no matter what else is going on in your life — you could be going through a difficult time in your relationships, your business could be sinking into bankruptcy or you just had a fight with your colleague; you can shut those things out of your mind and focus totally on the work that needs doing.

Your mind sees things as separate rooms with closable doors, so you can enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Your mind does not wander.

Being able to achieve this state can seriously boost your productivity. You get a lot more quality work done and you find you have a lot more time to do the things you want to do. It is a skill worth mastering for the benefits it will bring you.

How to develop the skill of compartmentalization

The simplest way to develop this skill is to use your calendar.

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Your calendar is the most powerful tool you have in your productivity toolbox. It allows you to block time out, and it can focus you on the work that needs doing.

My calendar allows me to block time out so I can remove everything else out of my mind to focus on one thing. When I have scheduled time for writing, I know what I want to write about and I sit down and my mind completely focuses on the writing.

Nothing comes between me, my thoughts and the keyboard. I am in my writing compartment and that is where I want to be. Anything going on around me, such as a problem with a student, a difficulty with an area of my business or an argument with my wife is blocked out.

Understand that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about an issue

One of the ways to do this is to understand there are times when there is nothing you can do about an issue or an area of your life. For example, if I have a student with a problem, unless I am able to communicate with that student at that specific time, there is nothing I can do about it.

If I can help the student, I would schedule a meeting with the student to help them. But between now and the scheduled meeting there is nothing I can do. So, I block it out.

The meeting is scheduled on my calendar and I will be there. Until then, there is nothing I can do about it.

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Ask yourself the question “Is there anything I can do about it right now?”

This is a very powerful way to help you compartmentalize these issues.

If there is, focus all your attention on it to the exclusion of everything else until you have a workable solution. If not, then block it out, schedule time when you can do something about it and move on to the next piece of work you need to work on.

Being able to compartmentalize helps with productivity in another way. It reduces the amount of time you spend worrying.

Worrying about something is a huge waste of energy that never solves anything. Being able to block out issues you cannot deal with stops you from worrying about things and allows you to focus on the things you can do something about.

Reframe the problem as a question

Reframing the problem as a question such as “what do I have to do to solve this problem?” takes your mind away from a worried state into a solution state, where you begin searching for solutions.

One of the reasons David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has endured is because it focuses on contexts. This is a form of compartmentalization where you only do work you can work on.

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For instance, if a piece of work needs a computer, you would only look at the work when you were in front of a computer. If you were driving, you cannot do that work, so you would not be looking at it.

Choose one thing to focus on

To get better at compartmentalizing, look around your environment and seek out places where you can do specific types of work.

Taking your dog for a walk could be the time you focus solely on solving project problems, commuting to and from work could be the time you spend reading and developing your skills and the time between 10 am and 12 pm could be the time you spend on the phone sorting out client issues.

Once you make the decision about when and where you will do the different types of work, make it stick. Schedule it. Once it becomes a habit, you are well on your way to using the power of compartmentalization to become more productive.

Comparmentalization saves you stress

Compartmentalization is a skill that gives you time to deal with issues and work to the exclusion of all other distractions.

This means you get more work done in less time and this allows you to spend more time with the people you want to spend more time with, doing the things you want to spend more time doing.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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