Do you want to listen better? Most of us think we’re good listeners. But we are prone to making common mistakes. Here are some tips to help you listen better and avoid these mistakes.
Listen Better: These 15 Tips Will Help You
Everyone can use help to listen better and polish their listening skills. It isn’t that we deliberately fail to hear what others say, but more that we’re not paying full attention. It’s impossible to grasp their words’ full scope and context when we’re only half-listening.
If you want to listen better, try these tips.
1. To Listen Better, Put Down the Smartphone
How can you listen to what someone says when you’re engrossed in the smartphone in your hand? Not only are you unable to listen to the other person, but you’re also being insulting. How would you feel if you were trying to communicate and they were poring over texts, scrolling, surfing, and responding to others electronically?
- Put down the smartphone and pay attention. It won’t take long. Afterward, you can return to your electronic device without insulting the person.
2. Make Eye Contact
If a person is talking to you and you’re looking elsewhere, how do they know you hear what they’re saying? When someone is saying something to you, earnestly engaged in conversation, it means they have something important to say.
- To listen better, make eye contact. This is a simple yet effective way to show them that you’re attending to what they’re saying.
3. Stop What You’re Doing
While you may have tasks to finish, it’s incredibly disrespectful to continue working when someone is trying to tell you something. Show them you’re listening. Stop what you’re doing temporarily.
- If you must get back to the task at hand immediately, allow for a pause. Then let the speaker know you’d like to continue the conversation but request it be later. Set a reasonable time to get back to them. Apologize that you can’t talk further now.
4. To Listen Better, Be Fully Present
Now is not the time to let your mind wander. Do that after you’ve heard what the other person is saying and responded appropriately. Allowing your thoughts to drift off to your to-do lists, where you’ll pick up take-out for dinner, what’s on TV tonight, or wondering if you’ll hear from a new romantic interest doesn’t do either of you justice.
- Think how you’d feel if you were speaking and you could tell the other person wasn’t paying attention. If you want someone to listen to you, listen to them.
5. No Typing
Nothing is more annoying to a phone caller – or someone in the same room – trying to talk with you when you’re typing on the computer. How can you do two tasks at once? Not only can you not grasp what the speaker is saying, but whatever you’re typing is getting less-than-full effort.
- Stop typing and listen. It’s the courteous and respectful thing to do.
6. Minimize Distractions
The world is a busy place. That’s true at home, work, on the go, and anywhere. However, when conversing with another person, minimize the distractions around you. For one thing, you can’t concentrate on two things at once. For another, it’s rude and disrespectful.
- The other party can tell when you’re distracted. You don’t respond promptly, or what you say doesn’t reflect an understanding of what’s been said.
7. Mute Sounds to Listen Better
Background noises interfere with conversations. When there is sound from the TV, radio, children playing, or other people talking, it’s impossible to hear what the person speaking to you is saying. You might miss important points. It’s also too easy to be distracted by the noises.
- Mute the sound. Leave the noisy room temporarily. Ask boisterous kids to tone it down for a few minutes. Apologize to the caller about the intrusive noise and ask that they hold that thought until you get to a quieter place.
8. No Eating or Drinking
Just as the rude, annoying, and distracting sounds of typing are the unpleasant sounds of someone chewing food or drinking a beverage. When someone is conversing with you, the least you can do is forego the need to gulp, chew, slurp, swallow, or make other audible noises, signaling you’re not paying attention.
- Show your manners.
9. Respond to Show You’re Listening
How does someone know you’re listening to what they say? If you hear their words and understand what they’re trying to convey, use pauses in their conversation to acknowledge them. Say something like, “I hear you,” “I understand,” or “That must be difficult.”
- This isn’t the time to offer your opinion. They want to be heard, not lectured. If they want your help, they’ll ask for it.
10. Use Appropriate Behavioral/Verbal Cues
How you carry your body, your posture, whether your hands are clenched or open, how you hold your head – all these are bodily cues that you’re either listening or not. The same is true for verbal cues. Grunting is not acknowledgment, and neither is a sigh.
- You can nod in agreement or signal with eye contact to show you’re paying attention.
11. To Listen Better, Be Engaged, Not Emotional
What qualities do the best listeners have? Among other things, they listen without displaying emotional outbursts. They are engaged, yet not emotional. Even if the subject under discussion is emotionally charged, the good listener remains calm and focused on the speaker.
- Being overly emotional will boomerang. It will amp up the tension and increase stress — not what you want in a conversation.
12. Offer Encouragement and Support When Needed
Along with avoiding emotion in conversations, it’s essential to offer the speaker encouragement and support if that’s requested or necessary. Sometimes, people need to talk things out. Hearing their words outlying a problem or describing a situation is sufficient to give them perspective.
- Be supportive. You’re allowing them to speak and offering appropriate encouragement and support, which they need.
13. Avoid Interrupting, but Ask Questions for Clarification
How rude is it when someone constantly interrupts you when you’re trying to speak? Knowing this, it’s easy to see that a good listener doesn’t interrupt.
- However, it’s also important to ask questions when there’s a break in the conversation to get clarification. Did you misunderstand? Is information missing that you need?
14. Do Not Judge the Speaker
This person wants to say something to you. It’s important to them. Do not, under any circumstances, pass judgment on the speaker. This includes curbing the temptation to tell them that what they’re suggesting is a bad idea, won’t work, or is not original.
- Would you want someone you’re talking with telling you what an impossible idea you have or saying you’re bound to fail? Of course not. So please don’t do it to them.
15. After Reflecting, Summarize What the Person Said
As the conversation ends, think about what you heard. Then, summarize what the speaker told you so they know you listened and understood what they were trying to convey. This shows the person you paid attention to, grasped their intent, and were fully present.
- If they want your help or appear to need it, help if you can. Most often, it’s the opportunity to speak about what’s bothering them that they want. You are the intended audience. They called or wanted to talk to you because you are a valued, trusted friend or confidante.