Listening is the key to great relationships and good understanding. It’s important in today’s society, with all of our high-tech communication capabilities, to tune in and really listen to one another whenever possible. Effective listening is the secret that saves jobs, marriages and families from breakups and breakdowns.
Here are seven steps to effective listening:
1. Look the Speaker in the Eyes
This shows that you’re being attentive and actually care about what they are saying. By no means should you engage in other activities like texting, reading, writing or gazing at the television. Stay focused on the conversation at hand and nod accordingly to let the person know you’re getting what they’re saying.
2. Avoid Interrupting and Wait to Interject at the Right Time
Let the speaker finish their point. Wait for a pause to interject or ask for more clarity. A big mistake would be to jump in with an interruption, ask a question or make a comment before the speaker is done speaking. This can be very frustrating and can cause the speaker to lose sight of what they were trying to say. Interruptions can create a wall between the speaker and listener, making it hard to communicate successfully.
3. Be Prepared to Listen
Relax your mind and body so that you can receive information objectively. Clear your mind of distracting thoughts by breathing in deeply. (Inhale and exhale at least three times.) Turn toward the speaker and sit up straight to show that you’re present and attentive. Your physical engagement also sends a message to your mind to focus on the speaker.
4. Learn to Keep Your Mind from Wandering
A untrained mind can easily be distracted by noises, random objects, background chatter or your even own thoughts. You may find yourself thinking of what you should be getting done in that moment. However, when you’re not focused on the conversation, it is evident to the other person.
Journaling is the most effective way to train your mind to listen. Get quiet every day for at least 20-30 minutes and tune out all noise and distractions. Then ask yourself a question you want answered about your life or career. Sit, listen and record your response in a journal. Soon you’ll learn how to effectively listen to both your inner thoughts and to others.
5. Be Open-Minded
Always remember the three Js to being open-minded:
1. No Judging: Listen without being critical of the other person. Judging the matter before you hear it all out can cause you to respond inappropriately.
2. No Justifying: Avoid the need to justify your own thoughts or beliefs on a matter before listening to a person entirely. If you don’t allow a person to finish what they’re trying to say, you’ll never really get to know how they feel or think about the situation.
3. No Jumping In: Be patient and try not to figure out what you think the speaker is trying to say by finishing their sentences or blurting out your thoughts. The best way to learn exactly what they’re saying is by remaining quiet and listening closely. Concentrate on what they’re saying (even if it annoys you). Effective listening should be free of interruptions and pre-supposed solutions.
6. Practice the Art of Mirroring
A good listener knows how to mirror the same energy or emotions as the speaker. Show that you’re engaged by responding with matching expressions. Reflect their feelings by responding with a smile when they smile and nod when they’re looking for clues that you’re getting what they’re saying to you. For big news, show an appropriately excited expression to convey that you’re feeling what they are feeling. This assure them that you’re really listening and engaging.
7. Give Positive Non-Verbal Feedback
Your facial expression is a clear indicator of your thoughts and mood. Be conscious of your body language. Rolling eyes, slumping shoulders, excessive fidgeting or sternness of face all show that you’re detached from the conversation. Look at the person talking, point your body in their direction, smile and listen closely.
For a quick summary of these steps, you can consult the infographic below:
Practice listening effective every day for one week. Record your thoughts and outcomes in a journal so you can chart your progress and feedback.
Aside from a life coach and career expert, Stacia Pierce is the CEO of Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises. She has shared her knowledge by writing 21 books, being featured on ABC News, FOX, CBS, NBC and hosting the annual Women’s Success Conference, which attracts over 5,000 women each year. She was a top winner on Oprah’s OWN Network contest with 7.6 million votes.
Image: Melvin Gaal