Ever noticed how some people love to talk, yet, when it comes to being a good listener – their eyes glaze over, their expressions become slack and their vocabulary dwindles down to a series of one syllable grunts.
It’s frustrating – and it’s considered a big no-no – regardless of who you’re holding a conversation with.
The truth is, when it comes to things like making friends, succeeding in business and being a sharp individual, you need to not only hear what others are saying to you, but to really listen to them.
I’m sure that when you speak to someone, you hope (and expect) that they care enough to focus on what you’re saying. Whether you’re talking to your romantic partner, business associate or a customer service representative – if it appears they aren’t listening, you’ll probably be pretty aggravated.
Unfortunately, though you may not be able to control the listening skills of others, you CAN control yours. So I’m going to share three characteristics of a great listener to not only help you improve your own skills, but to hopefully inspire those around you to do the same.
How to Be a Good Listener
1 – Be present
For this to work, you’ll need to empty your mind and refain from multi-tasking. This includes trying to listen to someone while using your phone, working on the computer or attempting to do anything other than to pay attention to the other person.You probably don't enjoy talking to someone who's scrolling through their phone, trying to work or even just drifting off somewhere.Click To Tweet
If it happens frequently, you’ll start to resent the other person and avoid spending time with them.
People claim to be great multi-taskers and I’m not here to challenge them. What I WILL say, though, is that to listen to someone and make them feel like they’re being heard, it helps to make eye contact, to be still and to engage with them – and nothing else.
It helps to keep your mind open and quiet. We all have random thoughts and that’s normal. Just give yourself permission to revisit those thoughts later on. If they’re important, they’ll be there. If not, nothing lost.
Practice this technique and you’ll find yourself not only able to listen deliberately, but you’ll also become a more organized and methodical thinker in general. This is a skill that helps you to compartmentalize your tasks based on schedule and urgency.
Being present is an asset to you and everyone around you for a variety of reasons, so consider making this a part of your life in general.
2 – Listen to understand instead of reply
I’ve caught myself trying to come up with a response while someone is talking to me – therefore, not truly absorbing the totality of what they’re saying. I’ve also noticed others do the same.
Instead of thinking about what you’re going to say when it’s your turn to speak, utilize tip # 1 by quieting your mind and focusing on what the other person is telling you. You’ll not only hear the words themselves, but you’ll also have an opportunity to gauge their body language, facial expressions and the tone of their voice.
ALL of which help tell a complete story.
Your response may show up as a solution, a story of your own or perhaps additional questions that encourage the other person to elaborate – which in turn will give YOU a better opportunity to provide more specific feedback.
This lets the other person know you really were listening.
Look, I know listening to long-winded stories can be a time suck and a pain in the ass. People tend to go on and on about seemingly useless things that serve no purpose other than to vent to anyone who’ll give them the time of day.
I say, respect your own time and be choosy about who you listen to.
While it’s great to be a generous listener, it’s also perfectly acceptable to be fair to yourself.
3 – Know your timing
There will be situations when your immediate attention is needed. In those cases, reflect back to tips 1 & 2 to prepare yourself to actively listen on the spot.
However, there are those times when you want to give someone your full attention, but the timing is off.
For example, if your significant other wants to have a talk, catching you off guard may not be the way to go.
Especially if it’s a heavy subject matter.
Chances are, they’re on the offense, you’re on the defense and while you may listen to them, chances are you’ll probably form your response based on your emotional reaction to being criticized or reprimanded.
In this case and others like it, you can always tell the other person something like “I can see you’re upset and need to talk. I want to listen, but at this moment, the timing is off. Can we talk about this in about 30 minutes so I can focus on what you’re saying and give you the attention you deserve?
You can use this technique in many scenarios…
…And it’s a good idea to consider it. I’ve talked about buying yourself time in my post Learn to Say No (Without Looking Like a Jackass.).
People often feel they aren’t being listened to because while they may need to talk, they haven’t given any thought to whether or not their listener is ready to hear them.We live in a busy world. Our attention is constantly divided between our tasks, our surroundings and the random thoughts that play out in our minds.Click To Tweet
Listening is best done from a place of being fully present. If you aren’t in that place, you’ll either need to utilize techniques to get yourself there immediately or you’ll need to buy yourself some time.
To be a good listener, you have to:
- Be present
- Listen to understand instead of reply
- Know your timing.
It takes practice and a deliberate attempt to engage with others using emotional intelligence and maturity. You’ll also need to know when someone else is worthy of your time and whether you can give it to them.
Try these techniques out and let me know how it works.
So what about you? What are your thoughts about being a good listener?