Listening is the key to great relationships and good understanding. It’s important in today’s society, with all of our high-tech communication capabilities, to tune in and really listen to one another whenever possible. Effective listening is the secret that saves jobs, marriages and families from breakups and breakdowns.
7 steps to effective listening
- Look the Speaker in the Eyes
This shows that you’re being attentive and actually care about what they are saying. By no means should you engage in other activities like texting, reading, writing or gazing at the television.
- Avoid Interrupting and Wait to Interject at the Right Time
Let the speaker finish their point. Wait for a pause to interject or ask for more clarity. A big mistake would be to jump in with an interruption, ask a question or make a comment before the speaker is done speaking. This can be very frustrating and can cause the speaker to lose sight of what they were trying to say. Interruptions can create a wall between the speaker and listener, making it hard to communicate successfully.
- Be Prepared to Listen
Relax your mind and body so that you can receive information objectively. Clear your mind of distracting thoughts by breathing in deeply. (Inhale and exhale at least three times.) Turn toward the speaker and sit up straight to show that you’re present and attentive. Your physical engagement also sends a message to your mind to focus on the speaker.
- Learn to Keep Your Mind from Wandering
A untrained mind can easily be distracted by noises, random objects, background chatter or your even own thoughts. You may find yourself thinking of what you should be getting done in that moment. However, when you’re not focused on the conversation, it is evident to the other person.
Journaling is the most effective way to train your mind to listen. Get quiet every day for at least 20-30 minutes and tune out all noise and distractions. Then ask yourself a question you want answered about your life or career. Sit, listen and record your response in a journal. Soon you’ll learn how to effectively listen to both your inner thoughts and to others.
- Be Open-Minded
Always remember the three J’s to being open-minded:
(i) No Judging: Listen without being critical of the other person. Judging the matter before you hear it all out can cause you to respond inappropriately.
(ii) No Justifying: Avoid the need to justify your own thoughts or beliefs on a matter before listening to a person entirely. If you don’t allow a person to finish what they’re trying to say, you’ll never really get to know how they feel or think about the situation.
(iii) No Jumping In: Be patient and try not to figure out what you think the speaker is trying to say by finishing their sentences or blurting out your thoughts. The best way to learn exactly what they’re saying is by remaining quiet and listening closely. Concentrate on what they’re saying (even if it annoys you). Effective listening should be free of interruptions and pre-supposed solutions.
- Practice the Art of Mirroring
A good listener knows how to mirror the same energy or emotions as the speaker. Show that you’re engaged by responding with matching expressions. Reflect their feelings by responding with a smile when they smile and nod when they’re looking for clues that you’re getting what they’re saying to you. For big news, show an appropriately excited expression to convey that you’re feeling what they are feeling. This assure them that you’re really listening and engaging.
- Give Positive Non-Verbal Feedback
Your facial expression is a clear indicator of your thoughts and mood. Be conscious of your body language. Rolling eyes, slumping shoulders, excessive fidgeting or sternness of face all show that you’re detached from the conversation. Look at the person talking, point your body in their direction, smile and listen closely.
Principles of Effective Listening
Listening is very important aspect of communication. Around 20% of overall communication is listening. Therefore, one should strive for adopting good listening habit.
There are following guidelines for good listening:
(1) Preparation before listening.
(2) Listening to understand, not to refute.
(3) Focusing the attention.
(4) Concentration on context.
(5) Taking notes.
(6) Curbing the impulse to interrupt.
(7) Asking questions.
(8) Summary & evaluation.
- Preparation before listening
As already mentioned that listening plays important role in communication. So one should prepare himself before starting listening. In preparation, there are following guidelines:
(i) Stop talking: Human brain can perform one activity efficiently at a time, so during listening there should be no talking by the listener.
(ii) Remove distraction: Noisy fan, traffic noise, entrance of unauthorized persons may interrupt the listening process. All these barriers should be removed.
(iii) Good environmental conditions: There should not be extraordinary cold or warm environment and ventilations should be proper.
- Listening to understand, not to refute
There could be many topics to which the listener has reservations. Apart form these reservations, the listener should try his best to understand the message.
- Focusing the attention
There may be many objects on which the listener should construct a mental outline of where the speaker is going in his speech.
- Concentration on context
The listener should keep in mind the background and theme of speech. This thing enables him to absorb the material quickly and efficiently.
- Taking notes
Listener should keep on taking notes. Hence, he should jot down ideas rather than sentences. In this way, he/she could make the message safe for a long time.
- Curbing the impulse to interrupt
One should avoid interrupting the speech until the speaker invites questions. This habit puts the speaker and listener both at ease.
- Asking questions
Asking right question on right time is quite different form interruption. Listener should have an idea to know right time to ask questions.
- Summary & evaluation
The listener should summarize and speech but not during listening process.