How good a listener do you consider yourself to be?
I consider myself to be a good listener. But it wasn’t always this way.
I know that listening, and listening well, is something that has taken me years of work to get to where I am now.
I was thinking about this yesterday when I was having a conversation with a work colleague. It became very clear early on that they were not present with me in the conversation.
Even though this person was nodding here and there, and saying ‘ok’ at intervals. The whole conversation was falling on deaf ears from my part.
For example, and this is always a giveaway that someone is not listening. When I’d ask a question that deserved an answer. The person would respond with a question, or by just talking about something else.
I found this quite off putting, so I would ask the question again in a slightly different manner. But it would be met with a similar response.
It became clear that the person was either not interested in what I was saying. Although they had a chance to walk away. Or maybe they are just not good at listening. That’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion.
We are not all born good listeners. It’s not even a skill most people passively develop over time. It’s a skill that you need to work on if you want to be better at listening.
In my line of work, listening is really important. If I were not listening intently to people I work with, I’d fail to understand them. Or help them.
But not only that. Listening is important to everyone in their day to day lives. Whether it comes down to communicating with family and friends. Understanding instructions. Or even watching TV.
If you’re not listening effectively, you’re really not listening at all.
It goes way beyond just listening and nodding your head too. Being a good listener means you’re being genuine, thoughtful, have the desire, and are willing to practice.
6 Key Points to Become a Better Listener
Take Time to Comprehend What’s Being Said
It takes two to have a conversation. Most people aren’t good at getting their point across, so you need to listen and make sure you comprehend what they are saying.
Good listeners know when to interrupt and ask for something to be clarified. They also know when they have understood the point 100%, and will not need to question something later.
Never walk away fro a conversation confused. Or wishing you had asked the person to clarify something. Work it into a conversation, by listening intently at the time.
Become Aware of Body Language during Conversations
There is a lot a good listener can pick up by reading between the lines. People make a lot of subconscious gestures with their body language to complement what they are saying.
This is particularly useful when you’re meeting someone for the first time. For example, if someone’s voice raises and their arms become animated.
You can put these two together, there is a good chance they are emotionally charged.
Consciously Think before Adding Input
A good listener controls the flow of a conversion well. They know when to add some input, when to be quiet, and what the impact of their input will be.
This takes some people a considerable amount of practice. But it’s an extremely valuable skill.
Don’t let your desire to say something you think is really important if you’re missing the moment. Think, listen, act.
Decide Whether You Should Be Thinking Ahead
Sometimes our brains are working at an incredible pace during a conversation. We are listening, processing what we have heard, and thinking about what to say next.
If you stop and think about it. It’s a more complex battle balancing these things than you have probably given credit to.
You don’t always need to think ahead. Listen carefully to the conversation and decide if it appropriate.
Think before Responding
Thinking before responding not only shows that you are being thoughtful. It add value to what the person speaking has said.
You have probably seen this from both sides. When someone immediately jumps on you after you have been speaking, it gives the impression they were not really listening.
Don’t rush what you’re saying, this will save you putting your foot in your mouth too.
Know When It’s Acceptable to Interrupt
Interrupting someone can make or break a conversation. So pick your moments very carefully. People with social disorders have a very difficult time knowing when there is a cue to interrupt.
Knowing when to interrupt is a skill developed over time. There are very few instances when you should do so, but it’s up to you to judge per the situation.
There is a golden rule not to interrupt during negotiations for example. Something worth remembering.
You can make some large leaps with your social skills and awareness by becoming a better listener.
It’s certainly something I recommend everyone spends some time doing. It’s helped me massively over the years.
So take these 6 key points to become a better listener on board. Start paying more attention, listening, and enjoying conversations more.
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.