A lot of us think we know how to listen, but we really don’t. Learning how to listen is a critical tool in communicating in our personal and professional lives. Did you know that most of the time before we even start a conversation, we have already determined our responses and what we are going to communicate? There are 5 key elements to listening. Understanding these elements can help you become a better communicator and improve your relationships.
- Make eye contact. Eye contact is critical in any conversation. Making eye contact forces you to focus on the other person and helps you understand not just what they are saying but what they are feeling. We show a lot of emotions through our eyes. Making eye contact is how you connect and listen on a deeper level.
- Don’t fix, give advice or interrupt. It is our instinct to want to problem solve. Instantly when we start a conversation we start thinking about how to fix a problem or tell someone how to make a situation better. Listening requires not interrupting. Give the person you are talking to the space to speak without interruption. This space may be all they need to figure out the problem or work through an issue.
- Remain silent. Resist the urge to ask questions and give an opinion. Listening requires undivided attention to the person speaking. Once you get use to remaining silent, you may realize that you are not only a better listener but you are now able to understand others better as well.
- Quiet your inner voice and inner chatter. It is just as important to remain inwardly silent as it is to remain outwardly silent. When someone is speaking to you, you cannot be an effective listener if you are planning out how you are going to respond. When you are focused on the inner voice, you miss what the other person is saying to you. This is where you can get in to trouble and misinterpret what is being said. Imagine your inner voice with a zipper on their mouth, and zip it closed.
- Listen with your ears and your heart. When you practice the first 4 elements of listening, the 5th element will come naturally. Looking into someone’s eyes, resisting the urge to jump in and tackle their problem and remaining silent can help you open your heart and your ears. When you shut everything else out, you can open yourself up to the person speaking to you and really hear what they are trying to communicate to you.
To be a good listener means you have to practice patience. Once you learn how to listen, you can strengthen your personal and professional relationships and become a better communicator.