Listening Skills – If there is one form of communication skill you should aim to master first, then listening it is. Everyone wants them to be heard but never put an effort to listen in the first place.
Active listening is one of the underrated marketing skills. It is important to know that listening is not the same as hearing. The biggest difference is the level you pay attention to.
Many successful persons in the world credit their success to effective listening skills. Listening Skills are definitely the building blocks of success.
It is very easy to say than to follow. We all want to be good listeners but it can be hard to break the habit of paying only half attention to others. Isn’t it? So let’s learn about improving our listening skills.
Do you know most of the problems in life can be solved by asking questions to ourselves? It is as simple as that when it comes to improving skills as well.
So let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Why do you want to be a good listener?
Research shows that around 45% of the time is spent in listening, 30% in speaking, 16% in reading, and 9% in writing.
Visualize how being a great listener will help you become a better employee, compassionate friend, or loving mother /wife.
It solves most of the relationship problems that you have in your life.
Having good listening skills encourages speakers to communicate fully, openly, and honestly.
It helps us to gain a full understanding of the message being communicated. It shows our interest, concern, and concentration.
Concentration is not just hearing the words spoken but also critically assessing what is being said.
Listening is also about aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages being communicated.
Think about the appreciative and what difference it will make for you. This will be the real motivation and trigger for being a good listener.
Being a good listener is not just a way of being nice to others but also which has clear benefits to you.
So, working on this issue is surely going to have transformational effects.
When Listening is Important?
In today’s Covid era, every communication has become digitalized, right?
We depend on digital tools for communication like Zoom, Whatsapp, Email, Podcasts, Videos, and so on. Have you been in any situation where after a phone call forget the key thing that you ever wanted to hear?. Improving listening skills is the most important part of one’s life. Let’s see some of the areas where listening skills are important.
- Teamwork – When team members listen effectively, they are better able to share ideas and solve problems.
- Decision Making – Making the best possible decisions requires knowing all of the available information, and in order to know all of the information you need to listen to it and absorb it.
- Managing and Supervising – Managers need to listen with empathy, compassion, and respect. This will allow employees to feel valued and trusted.
- Customer Service – Listening patiently and helping the customer fully express their issue can provide the extra insight needed to answer questions and solve problems in a way to satisfy the customer.
- Sales – Listening to a customer’s needs before you start talking about the sale will help to improve your sales pitch.
- Negotiation – It helps to negotiate well by understanding the needs and wants well.
Why do you have a hard time listening?
The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Let’s see some of the barriers to listening. Attention is the most important thing you can give someone. Studies show that the human brain can concentrate at once. Obviously, if you do 10 things at a time, you will slip.
Another reason why people fail to listen is, at a very basic level, that they are too busy interrupting. Yes, you heard me right.
It is a human tendency to jump the gun when you hear something exciting. You only wanted to hear yourself do all the talking at times.
This is really serious distress because when you are closing a deal or in a situation with senior stakeholders, you might be especially likely to fall prey to this.
It is self-defeating, right? It’s like you cut them off or you don’t let them finish and you debate every point.
There might be a lot of reasons for having a hard time listening but the end result is the same, you end up isolating people.
What are the signs you’re not listening?
It’s a little tricky to say this. Because your mind is somewhere else and you are not paying attention to where you should be.
So, you need to monitor yourself and become conscious of this, so that you can stop before you offend someone.
- Don’t interrupt
- Don’t cut off
- Don’t debate until finish their point
- Don’t show the sign of distraction (Mobiles etc)
- Don’t ask to repeat frequently
Let’s see in detail.
- First, you are interrupting. When you see yourself cutting the other person off, STOP. You are not given enough conversational space if you do. You have to let them finish.
- Second, steering the conversation in another direction. It happens all the time organically and it’s not a big problem unless the situation is. When you are talking with business stakeholders, it is quite important. The person will feel offended and feel not heard enough.
- Third, debating them before they can finish their point. Healthy debate can be fine but don’t constrain their talks. Restrain yourself until they are done before responding.
- Fourth, playing with electronic devices or glancing outside not looking at the person. All these are signs of distractions.
- Fifth, are you asking them to repeat things frequently? If you are in a noisy environment, it’s fine. But if your mind is wandering, then you may end up someone saying to you’d directly “Are you listening”.
- By watching yourself and monitoring these signs, you can stop yourself and get your head back in the conversational game.
What to do when you’re not being listened to?
By putting yourself in one’s shoes is the best thing in the world. It’s called empathy. Let’s see how do you react when you are in the position of not being listened to.
First, take a moment to notice how it feels. The number one job is keeping the attention of the crowd. Most of the time, you raise your voices louder in order to get their attention. However, the best thing to do is, go a softer voice and make them hear you.
Silences and pauses are the best things to do when someone is not listening to you.
Third, you can say, “I’m trying to talk about something important and I just want to be sure you are really hearing this. This makes the person be conscious and end up saying, “Maybe we could pick this up tomorrow?.
All the above strategies will help you to bring the conversation alive if it’s just daydreaming.
Why Listening is important?
While paying full attention is hard but it’s definitely possible. Let’s see how you can adopt a mindset for good listening?
- First, think of the motivation why you want to be a good listener.
- Second, stay focused by being at the moment.
- Third, being a better listener is a powerful way to show someone that you care about them.
- Fourth, embrace curiosity in everything and anything you do.
- Fifth, listening helps to eliminate conflict
- Sixth, listening encourages empathy
- Seventh, think of the benefits you get in the personal and business relationships
- Eighth, effective listening reduces misunderstandings.
- Ninth, it also increases your productivity
- Lastly, it builds and strengthens the TRUST.
How to set the stage for high-stakes conversations?
It starts with identifying the right time to talk about something.
If something’s important, don’t try to handle it in the middle of the hallway or on the fly.
Make sure the other person’s time is right as well.
Also, make sure you have the location right. You may need a quiet private room or just a walking meeting which makes you focused but not always looking at each other.
Switch off the video, if you are uncomfortable with showing your non-verbal expressions.
Cross verify what you heard with other people in the conversation if multiple people are present.
Additionally, you can repeat what you heard is right. Make sure you paraphrase the sentence else the opponent party feels bored.
How to have a meaningful conversation?
Here are six cornerstone principles to follow effectively.
- First, use silence and space.
- Second, eye contact shows you are engaged. It shows empathy and understanding. They will open up more.
- Third, look out for body language. Make sure, you sit straight and your hands are not folded up. Also, tapping the fingers or toes shows to be distracted or you are uncomfortable.
- Fourth, you may disclose certain information. For example, saying, I too had project failure when I was in the first year of my degree.
- Fifth, make sure you are asking open-ended questions. It means it doesn’t give on to elaborate or connect with you if you ask Yes or No questions.
- Finally, don’t jump to conclusions immediately. ask for more data and be surprised what you discover.
Are you a Quick thinker & an Agile Talker?
Being an interrupter is the costliest sin of the conversation. Interrupting sends a variety of messages. It says:
- “I’m more important than you are.”
- “What I have to say is more interesting, accurate or relevant.”
- “I don’t really care what you think.”
- “I don’t have time for your opinion.”
- “This isn’t a conversation, it’s a contest, and I’m going to win.”
How to keep yourself from interrupting?
Let’s see a few of the strategies to eradicate.
- First, take notes while listening. This will make you focus and distract you from wanting to jump immediately. For instance, this will help to formulate all the points written before questioning them.
- Second, focus on your breathing. It’s natural for the heart rate to spike on.
- You may tend to go into fight or flight mode and you interrupt naturally to defend yourself.
- Speak slowly as speeding up shows your anxiety and it would ruin the conversation flow.
- Ask the follow-up question only after the person finished talking. Just pretend like you are filming an interview. This might work well for you.
- Finally, just keep in mind, you don’t gain anything by interrupting.
To summarise the learnings, next time you want to be an effective listener, think of the acronym HURIER. This model was developed by Judi Brownell of Cornell University. Understanding and following this will help not only be a good listener but also eventually a good communicator.
H – Hearing
U – Understanding
R – Remembering
I – Interpreting
E – Evaluating
R – Responding
That’s a wrap. Happy Hearing; Happy Listening;
Thank you for the time you invested in reading this article. As a reader, If you like this post, do share your comments and let me know how you improved your listening skills.