Tips on how to develop effective Listening Skills
Listening is not always easy. It can take patience and may require a few deep breaths to get through.
Be in the moment for effective listening skills. In order to be a successful listener we must be physically and mentally present. Consciously align your body with the other person, and maintaining eye contact -giving them your undivided attention. It also means turning off any mind chatter and reducing distractions. Sit somewhere where you can’t see your monitor, turn your phone on silent and give them your undivided attention.
Be careful about planning what you are going to say in response, instead of really listening. Watch for judgment “This isn’t important. This is stupid” as this type of mental chatter can lead to us not really listening. Effective listeners suspend judgment and wait until they have finished speaking before you create a response. This allows us to hear opportunities to build rapport and demonstrate empathy. If you are concerned you’ll forget a point take keyword notes.
Tone and body language matters in Effective listening skills
Pay attention to your body language, and theirs. You can show you are listening by tilting your head, leaning in, or occasionally nodding your head. The idea is not only to listen, but also to encourage the speaker. Watch for what their body language is telling you. Are they smiling, talking rapidly? Are the words they use and their body language congruent? e.g. Smiling and saying they are upset, or frowning when they say they are happy. If they are smiling and talking rapidly they’re likely to be genuinely excited and interested in the topic. If, however they have hunched shoulders and are looking at the ground perhaps they are nervous or sad.
The trick with body language is to notice groups of signals in context with what they are saying. Their signals can be very subtle but be careful not to fixate on one signal – e.g. crossed arms does not always signal defensiveness – it can sometimes indicate the speaker is cold.
Be aware of your filters
We see the world though our own unique lenses that colour our understanding. We create meaning based on our own experiences and context, so it’s important to confirm that your understanding of what was communicated is really what the speaker is trying to say. Don’t assume, ask! Sometimes we need to ask open-ended questions to confirm our understanding. e.g. “When you said X, what did you mean?”, “Can you give me an example of what you meant by Y?”
Effective listening skills at work and home
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