Why Not . . . Become A Better Listener? Part Deux
Wednesday February 2, 2011

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One of the most important points to keep in mind in our quest to be better listeners is that it is a skills that can enhance the quality of our lives.  And it is even more important to keep in mind that the simple act of listening doesn’t mean we have to believe what we hear, it just gives us a better breadth and/or depth of knowledge of the situation and the of the person who is speaking.

In fact, being an effective listener is a strategy to strengthen one’s knowledge base because when all sides of an issue are known, we are better able to make the decision that is right for us.

Last week, five benefits of listening were shared, and today, I’d like to show you six steps on how to be an effective listener on a regular basis. Many of these points will be reminders, but it doesn’t hurt to bring them to our attention so that we may be cognizant of the impact our seemingly simple actions have on those around us and the relationships we are a part of either professionally or personally.

Delay Judgment

In order listen without filtering what is being said, we must put aside any judgment we may have about the speaker, the situation or the environment in which we are in.  Admittedly, all humans have some sort of bias, some sort of preference, no matter how slight, but to be able to recognize the value of what is being said, we must rise above our set preferences.  By doing so, we are opening ourselves up to learning, growing and maybe, just maybe, seeing something different than we initially would have expected.

Take Responsibility

As individuals, only we can open our own minds up and let new ways of thinking in.  Now, keep in mind, just because we let new thoughts in, doesn’t mean we have to agree with them.  After all, the best offense is to know and understand what the other side believes and why they believe it. However, this understanding can only happen when we take responsibility for our own growth, and put down our barriers of resistance. The beauty of this realization is that when we stop blaming others, we often times become more sympathetic as to why people believe what they believe or behave the way they do. Remember, knowledge is power. If you can fathom he thought process and reasoning of the other side, you’ve conquered half the battle, and the best part is, you are the only other remaining half.

Establish Eye Contact
When listening during a speech, an intimate conversation or presentation, the simple act of focusing on the speaker, establishing eye contact, helps each of us to listen more effectively.  While we may believe we are the grandest of multi-taskers, the clear fact remains, the more focused we are on something, the more likely we are to grasp it. And the added benefit is that we are putting out the message to the speaker that what they are saying is important, or more directly, the person who is speaking is important and worth our undivided attention.
Create a Welcoming Environment
While we may want to become better listeners, we can’t engage in the  process unless someone else is speaking. With that in mind, we must create an environment with our presence that is comfortable, calming and safe for other’s to feel they can share their ideas and let us get to know them. A more direct approach is to ask questions of others and focus our attention and curiosity on them, so that they feel encouraged to speak.
Engaged Body Language
One of the biggest fears, public speaking, is in part due to the trepidation that others may not want to listen to us. By conveying a message with our bodies, we can create a welcoming an environment that, without saying a word, encourages the speaker to relax and share their ideas.  Whether it be with applause, the nod of our heads, or the shaking our of heads in disagreement, we are at least displaying that we are listening to what is being said. Immediately, the speaker knows who is paying attention.  So as a listener, by focusing and allowing ourselves to react to what we are hearing, we are actually modeling what an effective listener should be doing.
Do Unto Others

Last but not least, when in doubt as to how to be a better listener, we must ask ourselves this question: How would I want someone to act around me if I was talking to them? It seems like a simple question, but it always amazes me how so many people are consumed with their own thoughts, so much so that they are unable to get out of their own bubble for a moment and listen to someone else’s story, worries or thoughts. The Golden Rule is applicable in so many situations that we may at first not know how to deal with, but if we think about it, at the core, we all want to be treated with kindness, to be treated as though we matter to the person who has our attention if only for a moment.

So in all that we do, let’s try to live and be present in the moment we are in at any given point during the day.  We might be surprised as to the positive impact this can have on all of our relationships. Have a lovely Wednesday.

3 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Become A Better Listener? Part Deux

  1. Brilliant post as always Shannon. Listening really seems to be a dying art-form. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people checking their Blackberry and answering messages, WHILST someone is talking to them.

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