Listening Skills: Become a Better Listener
What does it mean to listen?
The vast majority of us will spend our lives relying on our listening skills. No matter what our profession happens to be, listening plays a key role in any communicative environment. Like all other skills, listening requires a lot of practice – it is not necessarily something you are just born with.
Everyone has the capability of listening – but can you listen well? Indeed, listening well is more important than just merely allowing the information to flow in one ear and out the other. When we listen well, we retain the information that is being submitted to us – and are thus able to use that information in an effective manner at a later date.
How can I tell if I listen well?
The process of listening well can be summarized in three different steps. By going over these three steps and evaluating them in relation to your own listening practice, you should be able to get a pretty good idea as to the extent of your listening skills.
The first – and most basic step of listening, is hearing. When you hear someone, you are basically able to catch whatever the speaker has said. In a lecture on horses, for example, you might hear someone say that no two breeds of horses are exactly alike. If you are able to retain that information and repeat it at a later date, then you have heard what the person was saying to you.
The second part of listening is to understand. This is when you have not only heard something, but you have taken the knowledge you have acquired in order to comprehend it in your own special way. So, to use the horse lecture example above, you might deduct from the statement of there being no two horse breeds alike that horse breeds must be distinguished by their physical appearance.
The final step of listening is making a judgment. This is when you have heard something, understood it, and wish to come to a decision as to whether or not what the person has just said makes sense to you. Is what you have just heard believable or not?
Perhaps you might think to yourself – how can every single horse breed look different? There must be at least some characteristics that they have in common. But then again, every single human being has their own particular traits that set them apart from everyone else. So maybe for horses, it is the same.
How can I become a better listener?
If someone is talking to you, then you should try to focus all your energy on listening to what that person is saying. Do not look around the room or out the window while the person is addressing you.
You should generally avoid allowing your mind to wander during a conversation. Perhaps you think you know what the person is going to say next – but oftentimes, you will be wrong! In those instances where you find yourself “tuning out” the other person, you are likely missing pertinent information! If you feel that your mind has begun to wander, shift the position of your body and try to focus all your energies on listening to the other person.
Try your best not to interrupt someone when they are talking. Interrupting speakers gets on their nerves, because it indicates to them that you have not been listening to what they are saying – even if you have – or at the very least that you are not interested in what they have to say.
On the flip side of that occasion, you should also give yourself a chance to finish listening to the other person before you begin to speak in response. This might mean taking a moment to reflect on what the other person has just said before you begin to respond.
If you want to make sure you are listening well, try to capture the main points that the speaker is attempting to convey. These will likely be mentioned in the beginning or at the end of a speech. They will also most likely be repeated several times throughout the monologue or dialogue. It is vital to pay extra attention to statements that begin with such lines as “The thing to remember is” or “My point is.”
Will listening help me communicate my own ideas better?
You betcha. You have to remember the old saying that time is on your side. Your thoughts move a lot faster than normal speech does. So in theory, you should be able to formulate your own thoughts while simultaneously listening to what the speaker has to say. By the time it is your turn to speak, you should be able to respond directly to whatever it is that the speaker has just said.