The Art of Really Listening

Not long ago, my wife and I were sitting in a upscale restaurant in New York City. It was a beautiful place. The interior had been decorated with lots of live plants, making being in the middle of the city much more tolerable. As we chatted, I noticed that a young couple across from us had their faces deeply embedded in their devices and were not really listening or paying attention to each other in the slightest.

I see this happening all the time. This couple’s behavior is just an example of how modern technology has changed how we communicate. While we have the ability to communicate with each other anywhere in the world, it seems that most people have forgotten how to communicate clearly with someone who’s sitting right next to them.

Really listening to another person has become a lost art.

The Problem With Not Listening

Besides being a problem for your personal life, not really listening to others can lead to lots of business misunderstandings. These misunderstandings can lead to mistakes. Of course, mistakes lead to the biggest cost for any business, having to do the work again.

On the other hand, knowing how to listen effectively brings many benefits. It will reduce miscommunication. This will strengthen both your personal and professional relationships. It can also help your marriage and boost your career.

Try these listening techniques the next time you have a conversation:

1.     Give the other person your undivided attention.

Have you ever been trying to communicate with someone while they keep glancing down at their phone? How does that make you feel?

What you do, your activities during a conversation shows the other person how important they are to you. By paying attention only to them, you not only uplift them, you’re also most likely going to fully understand whatever they’re saying. This prevents miscommunications.
Use these steps when someone wants to talk with you:

  • Stop whatever else you’re doing.
  • Put away your phone.
  • Turn off any other distractions, such as the TV.
  • Stay in the present moment, really listening to what they’re saying. Focus and try to avoid the temptation of letting your mind wander to other things (like what you’ll eat for supper) or thinking about what you’ll say next.

2.     Make eye contact.

When you don’t maintain keep eye contact, it can make the other person think you aren’t really listening. In fact, they might think you aren’t paying attention to the conversation at all.

Now this doesn’t mean you’re trying to win a staring contest. This kind of eye contact is just too creepy.Instead, look away momentarily from time to time. This will make it so it doesn’t appear as though you’re staring at them. After you look away, bring your focus quickly back to them. This will keep you from getting distracted by something else. This also cues them that you’re still listening.

  • A trick you can use to maintain eye contact is to focus on just one of the person’s eyes at a time.

3.     Summarize what you just heard them say after they finish talking.

This technique will help you clarify their meaning and helps make sure you are receiving the message they are sending. After you summarize, let them agree or disagree with you and then make any changes needed. This will allow you to add any relative thoughts or questions you may have.

4.     Ask questions.

One of the biggest reasons you need to ask questions is, at least for me, it’s impossible to read someone else’s mind. Even when you’re really listening, you can misunderstand what someone is trying to tell you. This can lead to you making assumptions, which is never a good thing.

If you don’t understand what is being said, simply ask the other person to clarify. This will help to eliminate assumptions  and avoid misunderstandings.
Another benefit of asking appropriate questions is it lets the other person know that you were listening intently and trying to understand their perspective.

5.     Avoid interrupting.

Although this is the last point, it is a big one. The following is the rule of thumb:

However tempting it is to jump in with comments or solutions, keep quiet until the other person stops speaking. Then, count to five before assuming it’s your turn.
Sometimes people are just looking to vent. They just want to let off some steam. While you may think you have just the right answer, don’t interrupt with your solution. Let them finish.

The other person will appreciate you and it may help them relieve their stress about whatever is momentarily bothering them. By saying nothing, you can, and often will, help them feel better!

Start Using the Art of Really Listening Today!

Others won’t always be able to recall everything you say in a conversation, but there’s a good chance they will remember how you made them feel. By really listening, you have the ability to uplift those around you. It will also allow you to avoid misunderstandings, and strengthen your relationships with the ones you care about most.

But it won’t come about by reading this article one time. It takes is practicing these simple listening techniques daily.

When you practice these techniques, I can promise you that your partner, friends, boss, and clients will be impressed. They will appreciate your caring and understanding. This is how you reap the benefits of really listening!

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