How good a listener are you?
A lot of things in life can depend upon whether you are good at listening. Most of us do a lot of talking. Especially when when you talk about something that is of interest to you, something related to your passion.
It’s definitely not bad to talk. Actually the inability to talk effectively is a social handicap that can seriously damage you chances of success, in your career and in your relationships.
But more important to these chances of success is your ability to listen.
Listening is a virtue that is so rare that you immediately stand out from the crowd. People yearn for the company of someone who will listen to them without interrupting. If you can develop this trait of talking less and listening more, you will soon find that you are a favorite among people.
In fact in all facets of life, it can benefit you immensely if you follow this golden rule: Talk less. Listen more.
Your friends will love you more for they will find it easier to talk to you.
If you are a salesperson, listening is a top skill that you just cannot avoid developing. Great sales people are really good listeners. By listening more than talking, they let the prospective client reveal their actual needs and their fears, information which are the equivalent of gold nuggets in sales.
In a marriage or any other intimate relationship, the listening partner conveys the message that he or she cares for the other one. Listening without interruption causes the speaker to express their views, their issues completely. More often than not, the lack of proper communication and the misunderstandings that stem from it are primary reasons for the couple to start drifting apart.
As a parent, listening more to your kids will not only let them grown into good listeners themselves, but will also help you in understanding their school life and life outside your home better. Stories of bullying and sometimes even of child abuse can be revealed before they start inflicting wounds on the tender minds if the parents only listened to them more.
As a boss, listening to your subordinates is a great way of telling them that you care and that you are interested in their welfare. This will motivate them even more to work for you and employ their discretionary efforts.
That said, how do you become a good listener?
1. Catch yourself in the act
How many times have you felt a suspicion that you were the only person talking, right in the middle of the conversation? Take guidance from this suspicion. Listen to yourself. Are you talking without ever giving a break or letting the other person express his or her views?
Stop there. Let the other person talk now. Ask questions that lead them to talk and contribute their part to the conversation.
2. Give attention
A common mistake we make in listening is that of passive listening. You finish your talk and then you start thinking about your next line while the other person is talking. Or you start analyzing the other person’s words and start preparing a reply.
Nothing can be more annoying than talking and not being listened to. It just derails the speaker. So give all your attention to the speaker as they talk to you. Hear them out, without analyzing. Take in the information. You can analyze after the sentence is over or when they take a break. Even if they don’t, you can take time before giving your reply.
This way, your replies will be better and a whole lot more effective.
3. Listen with your eyes too
Active listening is not just a job done with your ears. When you are talking to someone directly, maintain the eye contact. Nothing is more encouraging to the speaker than talking to a wide eyed listener. That shows that they have your full attention and it’s so beautiful when someone gives you their full attention.
Sometimes the other person might not be good at maintaining an eye contact. Don’t bother. Make sure that whenever their eyes return to you, yours are ready to meet them.
This can not only help you in becoming a good listener, but will also reveal a lot of things about the speaker to you. The speaker’s state of mind reveals itself to you through their eyes. Also lies and half truths can easily be detected.
4. Lead with questions
The best way to talk less and listen more is to ask questions during your part of the conversation. Answers almost always are longer than questions.
Ask leading questions, that makes the speaker tell more about the things that you want to listen. That is one way of saving yourself from a situation where the topic of conversation is of least interest to you.
Ask questions about things they just told you. This shows that you were really listening and gives them more confidence to speak and also raises their appreciation of you.
5. Let them finish.
One very common mistake most of us make in our conversations is to jump ahead of the pace of the conversation and interrupt the speaker. How many times have you felt annoyed when someone draws conclusions from an incomplete sentence of yours and starts talking.
The same applies to everyone. Listen to them. Let them complete what they are telling. If you don’t understand something clearly, ask them to tell a little more about it or to explain it clearly. And then once they have completed their explanation, and only then give your reply. Jumping ahead of the speaker and replying is not only annoying, but can be viewed as lack of professionalism in a workplace scenario.
Listening is a skill that needs to be cultivated regardless of your profile. It earns you a whole lot of points in personal and business relationships and can make you the favorite amongst your friends and colleagues.
So go ahead, tell me what you think about talking less and listening more. I’m listening.
Image Courtesy: Quinn Dombrowski