10 Ways To Improve Your Listening Skills
us have room for improvement in our listening techniques.
I encourage you to practice the methods I've just
described in your very next conversation. Like anything
new, they won't feel natural until you've used them
a lot. But do so, and you'll definitely be on your
way to improving this aspect of your charisma. Meanwhile,
here are some further ideas on ways to make active
listening easier for you:
listen-to one person for one day.
Choose one person you could relate to better.
Commit to listening to them-not just hearing them-for
one day. After each meeting, ask yourself: Did I use
the CARESS techniques? Did I really make an effort
to go beyond superficialities? Did I observe verbal,
vocal, and visual clues? Did I note what was not being
said as well as what was said?
gotten into this habit of nudging yourself to listen
better, extend this exercise to successive days, then
to other acquaintances as well. Listening well is
a gift you can give to others. It'll cost you nothing,
but it may be invaluable to them.
a receptive listening environment.
Turn off the TV. Hold your calls. Put away your
spread sheets and silence your computer. When listening,
forget about clipping your nails, crocheting, solving
crossword puzzles, or snapping your chewing gum. Instead,
try to provide a private, quiet, comfortable setting
where you sit side by side with others without distractions.
If that's not possible, perhaps suggest a later meeting
in a more neutral, quieter environment.
is to make your partner feel like you're there for
him or her. Don't be like the boss who put a desk-sized
model of a parking meter on his desk, then required
employees to feed the meter-10 cents for every 10
minutes of conversation. What a signal he was sending
talk when I'm interrupting.
If someone else is interrupting, avoid the temptation
to reply in kind. It'll just raise the level of acrimony
and widen the gulf between you. Instead, be the one
who shows restraint by listening to them, then quietly,
calmly, taking up where you left off.
you're talking, you aren't learning," President
Lyndon Johnson used to say. And by showing more courtesy
than your adversary, you will be quietly sending a
message as to how you both ought to be acting.
Sometimes newcomers to the skill of listening
can get carried away. They know they're supposed to
have eye contact, so they'll stare so much the speaker
will feel intimidated. Taught to nod their heads to
show they're understanding, they'll start bobbing
like sailboats on a rough sea. Having learned to project
appropriate facial expressions while listening, they'll
look as if they're suffering gastric distress.
the speaker figures out that the other person recently
attended a "listening" seminar or read a
book on the subject. But it all comes across as artificial.
All good things, including listening, require moderation
and suitable application. Too much exaggerated listening
is just as bad as, if not worse than, none at all.
An excellent method for note taking is "mind-mapping."
This free-form technique helps you take notes quickly
without breaking the flow of the conversation. Essentially,
you use a rough diagram to connect primary pieces
of information, then break it into appropriate subtopics
helpful and easy to use, and not at all like the old-fashioned
Roman-numeral kind of outlining you probably learned
in school. If you want to know more, I recommend an
excellent book: Tony Buzan's The Mind Map Book.
alert to your body language.
What you do with your eyes, face, hands, arms,
legs, and posture sends out signals as to whether
you are, or aren't, listening to and understanding
what the other person is saying. For example, if you
noticed someone you were talking to doing the following,
what would you think?
arms on chest
at the ceiling
change or rattling keys
quickly get the impression-wouldn't you?-that no matter
what words come from this person's mouth, he or she
actually has zero interest in what you're talking
about and wishes you'd just go away. As Ralph Waldo
Emerson said, "What you are is shouting so loud,
I can't hear what you are saying." Conversely,
consider these mannerisms:
into your eyes
at appropriate moments
expressive hand gestures when speaking
eyes wide open
shows interest in you and what you're saying. In addition,
the active listener usually acknowledges the speaker
verbally with such comments as "I see,"
"Uh-huh," "Mmmm," or "Really?"
are contact-oriented, while others are much less so,
preferring more space between them and the person
they're talking to. You'll be a better listener if
you honor those spatial preferences.
when you acknowledge the other person both verbally
and nonverbally, you build trust and increase rapport.
And you'll probably learn something, too!
As someone once advised, "Grow antennae,
not horns." If you prejudge someone as shallow
or crazy or ill-informed, you automatically cease
paying attention to what they say. So a basic rule
of listening is to judge only after you've heard and
evaluated what they say. Don't jump to conclusions
based on how they look, or what you've heard about
them, or whether they're nervous.
maybe a good exercise would be to go out of your way
to listen to a difficult speaker. Maybe he talks with
a thick accent. Or talks much more rapidly, or more
slowly, than you, or uses a lot of big words. Whatever
difficulty this speaker poses, seize it as an opportunity
not to prejudge but to practice your listening skills.
Given some time, you'll become more comfortable and
effective in listening to diverse styles.
No matter how outrageous, inconsiderate, false,
self-centered, or pompous the person you're talking
to is, remember: He or she is simply trying to survive,
just like you. We all deal with similar physical and
psychological concerns. Some of us just have better
survival strategies than others.
with empathy means asking yourself, "Where is
this person's anger coming from?" "What
is he or she asking for?" "What can I do
that's reasonable and noncondemning?" You're
not everyone's shrink, and you don't have to carry
the weight of the world on your back.
the other hand, if you can think through what makes
this person behave like this, perhaps you'll be inclined
to cut them a little slack. Genuinely listening well
is, at its heart, an act of love, and as such, may
sensitive to emotional deaf spots.
Deaf spots are words that make your mind wander
or go off on a mental tangent. They automatically
produce a mental barrier that impedes listening. Everybody
is affected that way by certain words.
a speaker giving a talk to savings-and-loan personnel
kept saying, "bank." To members of that
industry, banks and S&Ls are very different things
and so each reference to them as "bankers"
irritated the audience and aroused emotions that temporarily
derailed their listening.
So be alert
to what your own deaf spots are and make adjustments.
And try to find out what raises the hackles of other
people, then avoid those words so as to raise the
likely level of listening.
Create and use an active-listening attitude.
Learning to be an active listener is like learning
to be an active jogger. It takes effort. You start
little by little and work upward. It's as much a state
of mind as a physical activity. Besides, as you work
longer and get better, it pays ever-increasing benefits.
attitude can help tremendously in breaking
your poor listening habits. Exercising such an attitude
that listening is as powerful as speech. What
someone says to you is just as critical as what
you have to say to them.
that listening saves time and effort. Those
who listen create fewer mistakes, fewer misunderstandings,
and fewer false starts.
that listening to everybody is important and worthwhile.
Look for that something you can learn from each
and every person you meet.