Good listening skills start with listening well
When you’re listening to someone speak, especially someone up close, do you really listen? That is, are you paying attention? Do you let the person speak, or do you interrupt repeatedly?
This notion of listening well came to me during a social event I attended recently. Throughout the event, I met and spoke with several people. Some I hadn’t seen in decades; others were new to me. In each case I was interested in learning about them: where they are from, what they’re up to, and such. Often I would find myself eager to break into the conversation to add a thought. I had to stop myself, though, to prevent from interrupting.
The art of listening well starts with actually listening. As the old adage goes, “The good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.”
People have a tendency to jump into a conversation and offer their opinions. Other times they’ll cut in an attempt to finish the other person’s thought. While that behavior is annoying enough in general conversation, it can have really adverse effects in business settings.
Here are some suggestions for listening well:
1. Be patient. Remain quiet so the person can offer his entire comment.
2. Maintain good eye contact. This will help you hear while in noisy environments. Also, allowing your eyes to wander during a conversation is rude. The other person should have your undivided attention. You want the same, don’t you?
3. Ask questions about anything you’re not sure of. In noisy environments, especially, it’s easy to miss details.
4. In some cases, it’s helpful and even necessary to take notes. Do so. You won’t remember everything that was said, and the other person will appreciate the gesture.
As you can see, it’s not difficult to practice good listening skills. Be patient, and truly hear the person out.
For some advice on improving your communication skills, see “Resolve to improve your communication skills” and “Eliminate filler words for more effective presentation.”
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