Listening is one of the most important skills to develop in life, and can help us with focus and paying attention, communication skills and building a good rapport with others.
It is the number 1 Leadership skill. Not only for leaders. It is highly important that parents, partners and stakeholders do listen to each other with the aim to understand and not with the aim of proofing you are right or prepare the answer in your head.
Here are the top 7 tips to be an effective listener and moreover leader, understanding Parent and partner in whatever circumstances you are in:
Table of Contents
- Make time to listen
- Practise 360 Degree Listening
- Do your best to keep good eye contact
- Use your body to help you listen
- Avoid interruptions
- Suspend judgement and practise empathy
- Check your comprehension
7 Tips to be an Effective Listener
1. Make time to listen
It is not about having time – it is about making time.
Listening is one of the most important aspects of communication. It is also one of the highest forms of respect you can show a person, because it helps them to feel heard, respected and validated.
Listeners should not be tempted to jump in with questions or comments whenever there is a pause in a conversation. Good listening involves giving the other person space to explore their feelings and thoughts. Therefore, they should be given adequate time for that.
2. Practise 360 Degree Listening
The most effective form of listening is 360 Degree Listening. This is where you tune in to all aspects of what is going on in the moment, including:
- Verbal communication – this is what someone is saying and the way in which they are saying it. This is referred to as the spoken word.
- Non-verbal communication – this is what someone is saying using their facial expressions, eye-contact, actions, gestures, body movements, posture and energy – often referred to as the unspoken word.
3. Do your best to keep good eye contact
Eye contact is a form of body language which becomes very important during communication. When you have good eye contact with the person communicating, it helps the other person feel that you are focused, paying attention and really listening to what they have to say.
If eye contact is uncomfortable – and indeed constant contact can get a bit too much for most people – try looking away and upwards either to the right or left, and then coming back to make contact whenever you can. Looking upwards is better as it gives the impression that you are thinking about something, but still listening. It is best to avoid looking down or to the left or right as it can sometimes make others think you are hiding something or lack confidence. Alternatively, try looking at the forehead of the person you are speaking to – often people cannot distinguish between you looking here or making eye contact.
Even if you can only manage eye contact for a couple of seconds each time, it is better than no eye contact at all.
4. Use your body to help you listen
If you sit facing the other person with an upright posture, not only are you more likely to listen, it will also help the person speaking feel that you are focusing and paying attention to what they are saying.
The other thing that can help is to be as still as possible, which means avoiding or limiting fidgeting and body movements such as tapping or kicking your foot.
And of course, don’t forget tip number 3 about maintaining eye contact as much as you can!
5. Avoid interruptions
Avoid interrupting someone whenever you can. Interruptions are not only rude, annoying and irritating – they stop the flow of conversation and often give someone the impression you are not listening to them or think that what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. There are many different ways that you can interrupt someone, including:
- Changing the topic.
- Taking over the conversation.
- Interrupting or talking over someone.
- Not allowing the other person to talk.
- Finishing the other person’s sentence.
- Fidgeting, tapping and kicking your foot.
- Saying or doing anything that might make the other person feel that they need to hurry up and get on with what they are saying, like nodding incessantly or saying ‘yep, yep, yep, yep…’.
- Your mobile phone beeping or ringing.
6. Suspend judgement and practise empathy
Do your best to suspend judgement of the other person until you have heard all that they have to say. As soon as you go into judgement mode, your focus is more on what you are thinking and your critical analysis, rather than actually taking in what the other person is saying.
To strengthen communication, also try and empathise with the other person as much as you can by putting yourself in their shoes as they are speaking and wondering what it might be like to be them right now.
7. Check Your Comprehension
If needed, check what is being said to make sure that you have heard and/or understood the other person correctly. This not only helps you as the Listener, it also helps the Speaker feel heard and understood.
Checking is particularly recommended when the communication is lengthy, non-verbal, unclear or where the consequences of any misunderstanding can be serious. It is also important to check and clarify something if the Speaker’s words and body language are communicating two different things, e.g., when someone says they are fine when they are clearly not fine.
It is better to feel slightly uncomfortable about checking you understand someone than to totally misunderstand the communication. In some situations, it can even help the Speaker clarify what they are thinking, feeling and wanting.
Different Checking Methods:
‘In summary, I have heard/understood the following… Could you confirm if this is correct?’
‘If I can just double check – are you saying you want this person to come with us to the party or not?’
Checking what you are sensing/picking up, but don’t know for sure:
‘I am sensing/picking up that you are a bit upset with me. I wanted to check in with you to see if this is correct or whether it was something I had imagined?’
Enjoy active listening, believe me it is so rewarding and can avoid so many miscommunications, misunderstandings, and conflicts by only listening.