Stop Talking! That’s the first rule of attentive listening. You can not talk and listen at the same time, so to be a better listener, you have to stop talking! Did you know that the word Silent is in the word Listen?
We all think we are better listeners than we really are. My experience doing 360 assessments with many groups of people has shown that people always rate themselves higher in their listening behavior than all their other raters rate them. Why is this? I think it’s because we take listening for granted. We’ve been doing it all our lives, so we’ve got this, right? Nope, we don’t.
Why does this matter? Because communication is the core foundational skill of life. It is the basis of every relationship in our lives – with our significant others, our kids, our friends, our co-workers, our bosses, our employees, our customers. And the effectiveness of our communication can make or break those relationships. Everyone wants to feel listened to and understood. Including you. So how do we do this better?
The most important thing for you to think about is this – listening requires an Intention and Attention. It starts with you setting your intention to make yourself fully present for the other person and the conversation. Make time. Eliminate distractions. Get off your devices. Be there in that moment. Then your attention will follow your intention.
Here are some other tips to be a better listener:
- Use attending skills such as open body language and using encouragers like “I see” or “tell me more” to gain more information.
- Allow silent space for someone to step forward and talk to you. This is especially important if you are talking to an introvert who needs quiet processing time.
- Use responding skills such as paraphrasing and asking open-ended questions to make sure you are understanding what the person means.
- Don’t assume you know what they are going to say.
- Don’t interrupt to get your point across.
If you’re curious about how good a listener you are, give yourself a rating on a 1-7 scale and then ask at least 5 people at work and at home to rate you. How do you think you would do? Try it and find out.
I encourage you to set an intention to consciously make yourself present for all the important conversations in your life, and to practice the skills of attentive listening. I promise your relationships at work and in the rest of your life will benefit!
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Stephen Covey
Thanks for listening!