By: Maria D. : August 2020 :
Most people think that being a good listener comes down to not talking while someone is speaking, being able to repeat what was said, and/or using verbal affirmation and facial expressions (many times overexaggerated) to show you’re paying attention. On the outside, yes, these make you come across as a good listener. But quite regularly, our physical persona is very much like a duck on the pond—everything may look cool, calm, and chill on the surface, but beneath the water, its feet (our minds) are going a mile a minute.
So, to effectively listen (and actually hear what someone is trying to say), it’s important to remember three simple things:
Ditch the Distractions
When someone comes to talk to you, be it a coworker, friend, or family member, if you’re in the middle of something, it’s OK to ask for a little bit of time to finish what you’re doing first. Not only does it show them you WANT to hear what they have to say, but it also shows you want to give them the undivided attention they deserve.
So, when you’re ready to listen, put away your phone, close your laptop, and face them with an open posture to show you’re receptive to what they’re going to say—unfolded arms and uncrossed legs are a good start.
Mute Your Inner Monologue
It’s human nature to want to react when information comes our way. But, it’s important to listen with the intent of hearing, not with the intent of responding. If you start planning your next move or follow-up comment, you’re more than likely going to miss key points or misinterpret what’s being said.
The Interrupt with Intention Loophole
Not interrupting and not asking unnecessary questions are two great ways to master the art of listening, but what if you’re going into information overload? What if you feel like the conversation is starting to derail? What if you’re starting to lose complete and total focus/interest in what they’re saying? Well, this is the perfect time to interject with something along the lines of “Let me make sure I’m understanding you correctly. What you’re trying to say is…XYZ.” (This brief pause not only gives your brain a second to reset and get back in the game, but it also gives the talker the opportunity to get their thought process back on track.)
Remember, when someone wants to have a one-on-one with you, what they’re about to say is probably something that’s been on their mind for a bit. Being a good, attentive, and engaged listener is one of the greatest gifts you can give—and, it shows how much you care and respect what they have to say.