Monday, August 21, 2017

5 Ways to Become a Better Listener

Are you a good listener?

Hello? Are you there? OK, put down your smartphone, stop staring at someone across the room and let me try this again.

Are you a good listener?

Most of us would say "Yes, of course!"

Then, we might follow that up with, "Wait a minute...what did you say?"

Don't worry, you're not alone. I am supposed to be a great listener, because that's what I do for a living. I ask questions and then I'm supposed to listen carefully to ensure that I not only quote a person correctly, but I fully understand the context of the remarks.

I'll be the first to admit, however, that I can be distracted. For example, the other day I was interviewing a technology expert on the phone and one of my cats (Ace) decided that he would sit and meow nonstop outside my office door.

At the same time, my cellphone started pinging alerts on the latest White House resignation (I always do interviews on a landline for better quality sound).

Years of training helped me to block out those distractions and they were minor compared to what some people have put up with at work, especially in open concept offices.

I know that we all want to be good listeners, but it can be difficult with so many distractions. Still, becoming a good listener is one of those skills you can never work on enough and one that will always pay off for you in your private life and in your career.

If you want to improve your listening skills, try:

1. Making it a priority. You're never going to become a good listener if you don't really work at it. This may sound ridiculous, but I'm not talking about hearing someone -- I'm talking about listening. This means when a colleague begins speaking, you quit writing an email or texting on your smartphone. You take a deep breath to relax your body language and then fully tune into what the person is saying to you. You must do this every single time. It's like learning to ride a bike. The first time you decide to pedal down the street with your eyes closed, you're going be in for a world of hurt.

2. Don't interrupt. This is nearly impossible for many people, but it's like hoisting a red flag that reads: "Not listening!"

3.  Don't hijack the sentence. You may not mean to be rude when you finish someone's sentence -- it could be that you're just excited and want to join the conversation. But you're not a mind reader, and you never know with 100 percent certainty what someone is going to say to you. So, let the person finish his or her sentence without your input. Besides, it's rude and grabs the conversation away from the speaker.

4. Tune in. As mentioned earlier, you need to completely tune in to the other person in a conversation. People who are viewed as very charismatic are know for completely focusing on whoever is speaking to them. To these people, it seems as if no one else exists. So, stop looking over the shoulder of the person speaking or checking your phone or looking out the window.

5. Repeat. In order to become a better listener, summarize what you've heard when the person is finished speaking to you. This way, you ensure that you heard information clearly and understand the context. This is a step that is critical to ensuring your skills develop so that you're truly on the road to becoming a good listener.

What other steps can someone take to become a good listener?

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