Fifty percent of all communication involves listening. Knowing how to listen well can improve your communication skills and relationships. I talk a lot, too much sometimes, but I also make an effort to ensure I listen and ask questions as much as I talk. Am I successful at it? Only my family and friends can say for sure, but I really do try! However, I couldn’t find many photos of me listening to anyone so that might be telling.
There are five basic steps to good listening.
1.Give the conversation your full attention
Deal with distractions before you begin talking to someone or postpone the discussion until you have taken care of any distractions. Think about some things that might prevent you from being present during a discussion before talking. When distractions do come up, try to keep them from interrupting your conversation. For example, if you receive a text or call, don’t respond.
2.Ask good questions
When you ask good questions during a conversation, you give the other person a feeling of value and that you are paying attention to what they’re saying. Some questions encourage information sharing and new ideas. Some questions encourage “yes” or “no” answers and keep conversations short and controlled.
Also, avoid questions that seem like you’re criticizing.
Which of the following questions encourage a positive response?
- How do you feel…?
- Why did you…?
- Why can’t you…?
- What if we…?
The first and fourth questions encourage a positive response. The second and third questions sound accusatory, so if you start off a question with a negative tone, you can expect to get a negative response.
3.Demonstrate to the other person that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying
Feedback assures others that you’re listening to them. There are some ways you can show you’re listening.
- Use small verbal responses such as “I see” or “I agree”.
- Make eye contact.
- Nod your head during the conversation when appropriate.
- Be empathetic, for example, use a phrase such as “It sounds like you’re worried.”
- Don’t speak when the other person is speaking.
4.Restate important points during the conversation
When you restate key parts of the conversation, you reassure the other person and yourself that you got it right. Some statements that can help you do that include the following.
- “So you’re saying that…?”
- “Let me make sure I understand. You want me …?”
5.Respond with your reactions
Be sincere. Let the person know what effect their communication has on you. Avoid judging other people. If criticism is necessary, discuss their actions, not their personalities, moods, profession, race, gender or other personal matters. For example, you can use a statement like the one below.
- “When you said … it made me feel like this…”
State your conclusions or course of action and make sure you follow up.
One of the best ways to make these five steps a natural part of your conversation is to practice them in fictional situations. Take turns being the listener with someone who raises one of the following issues.
- “You offered to help me, but so far you haven’t been available.”
- “I find you difficult to work with.”
- “The mess in this house is getting on my nerves.”
These are some of my tips. Do you have any tips that can improve listening skills?