How to Become a Better Listener – 11 Simple Ways
Difference Between Listening and Hearing
You know how when you start eating less, after a while, your stomach stops needing more food. Your body finds it harder to process the food that you’ve stopped eating. Same way, if you are not in a habit of listening to people, after a while, it will affect your ability to hear. Let that sink in!
Listening is different from hearing. Hearing means that you have the ability to hear, because you have ears that thankfully work and you are capable of hearing the birds, the rain, the baby crying, the kids playing, a married couple arguing, you get the picture. You hear things even when you might not want to, simply because of your ability to hear, which is one of the 6 senses.
However, listening is about choice. It is about whether you care to use your sense of hearing.
A few examples, “I can hear the married couple arguing, but I can’t listen to what they are saying.”
“I heard my teacher explain this before, but I don’t remember because I wasn’t really listening.”
I know what you’re thinking, you didn’t come here for a lesson in vocabulary, but it’s important to understand the difference between the two, because a lot of people use the two words interchangeably.
Why is it Important to be a Good Listener?
It is extremely important to work on having better listening skills. Listening is a rare art; everybody wants to talk. Everybody wants to show how much they know, “I know”, does that sound familiar? It is the two words we say and hear a lot. You never learn anything new from talking, but you can always learn some thing new and interesting by listening.
Better Listening Skills will Help you out in all Walks of Life:
- Better listening skills will help you at work, when your employers, employees or fellow colleagues are trying to express an amazing idea that they have. Listening to them will make them feel important, appreciated, and in turn they will appreciate you for making them feel that way.
- Better listening skills will help you build stronger relationships. You want to make your partner feel understood, you want them to feel like they can come to you when they are having a bad day. After all, having each other’s backs in times of need is the true essence of all relationships.
- Better listening skills will make people want to talk to you more. People might forget the things you say, but they always remember how you made them feel. It is as simple as that, simply by listening to people, you make them feel loved, you make them feel valued and understood. Isn’t that a power you wish to have?
- Better listening skills will help you make more friends. “How to make friends as an adult”, it is one of the most asked questions on google. Let me tell you, it is no rocket science. You make good friends by being a good friend. How to be a good friend? There are a lot of requirements here, but getting to the basics, become a better listener.
How to Become a Better Listener / Tips for being a Good Listener
Now that we know, why it’s imperative that you try to become a good listener, and if you think you already are a good listener, there’s always scope for improvement and here are a few tips for being a better listener.
1. Do not get distracted when someone is talking to you
This includes internal, as well as external distractions. It is extremely easy to get distracted. There is so much going on around you, and so much going inside you.
Internal Distractions: Our minds are constantly thinking, try not to think of a to-do list, or a bucket list. Instead, try to focus that energy on the person who is talking to you now.
External Distractions: The biggest culprit of all, the cell phone! Put it away. Do not look at any screen. I know that beautiful, shiny object across the room is distracting, and it will still be there when the conversation is over. You can do it!
2. Let them finish their sentences
People should not have to speak super-fast, just so they are able to finish their sentences.
You are in the middle of a rant, your thoughts are flowing, you are venting out, expressing yourself and BAM, you are interrupted in the middle. Can you go back to exactly what was going on in your mind before you were interrupted?
Something amazing happened in your life, or you had a great idea and you have been dying to share it with a friend, you’re building it up in your head, you’re so excited to tell them and before you are able to finish the whole story, they cut you off.
Imagine yourself in these scenarios, does that sound fun? Think about that next time you feel the urge to say something when someone is talking. Resist the temptation to jump in with a response. They will finish, I promise.
3. Use Non-verbal Responses
Encourage the person talking to you by letting them know that you want to be a part of the conversation. Effective communication requires at least two people. Talking is not the only method of communication. So, what should you do when you are trying to be a better listener?
- Nod your head in agreement or disagreement
- Raise your eyebrows to show interest
- Maintain eye contact. If you are in a group, maintain eye contact with the others in the group as well, this shows the person talking that you are interested in what they are saying. You are part of the group and exchanging reactions with each other.
- Do not stare at them without blinking. A blank stare is a clear-cut sign that you are only pretending to listen.
- Utter words like “Oh”, “wow”, “no way!”, “Oh My God!”, “really?”, “interesting”, etc
4. Ask THE RIGHT questions
Ask questions related to the topic of the conversation. If they are talking about their goals and dreams, asking a question about what they ate for breakfast will not help your case. It will be obviously that you clearly were not listening to what they were saying, but instead you were thinking about food.
5. Keep an Open Mind
Try not to let your personal judgements, beliefs, agendas clog your mind. Open your mind up to the possibility of new ideas. This is a great way to not only learn something new, but also when you listen with an open mind, you are less likely to interrupt.
6. Wait for your Turn
Yes, it is advisable to ask questions – The appropriate questions at the appropriate time is equally important. Keep the question in mind and wait for a natural pause in the conversation, do not keep interrupting the conversation to ask questions every 5 seconds. Be patient, your turn will come.
7. Do not try to fill in Every Pause by Talking
There might be a pause because the speaker is just trying to gather his/her thoughts, catching his/her breath, instead of jumping in to fill this natural pause, process what has just been said. This shows that you were not just waiting for your turn to talk but listening intently to what was being said.
8. Ask Deep Questions
Ask questions that will assure the speaker that you are interested in what they are saying. Let the questions be open ended. Instead of asking, “Did that upset you?”, try asking, “How did that make you feel?”
9. Force yourself to Focus
Some people are natural good listeners, for others it does not come naturally. Do not worry if that is you, you are in a majority. However, if that is the case, force yourself to be a better listener. It may be difficult at first, but if you keep forcing your brain to do something, over a period, it becomes a habit.
10. Wait for a response when you ask a question
Please do not ask “How are you”, “How was your day”, and then proceed to talk about yourself before giving them a chance to respond. It’s just rude.
11. Set your Intention
This might sound silly, but sometimes all it takes is a little self-awareness and self-motivation. About to hang out with a friend, a relative, teammates, any other group, when you leave your house, say it to yourself, “Today I will listen more and speak less”. Set this intention, and every day you will find yourself getting a little better at it.
These tips for being a good listener will come easily to you if you genuinely care about what the other person is feeling and saying. Listening is one of the most important skills required for effective communication. Unfortunately, it is also the rarest to find. But the good news is, like all other skills, it can be something you can teach yourself. If you are reading this blog, it is safe to assume, it is a skill that you are trying to improve at. Like I said, self-awareness is step one, you are already moving in the right direction.
Who do you go to when you just want to vent out? You can learn a lot by observing them. Did you find this information useful? Feel free to let me know in the comment section below.
Good Luck and have fun Listening! You will be surprised how interesting people are when you listen to them.