There is an old saying that the reason we have two ears and only one mouth is because we are destined to hear much more than we speak. Although it is a bit cliché, it is a lesson that we should carry with us throughout life, and one that you should practice in your conversations with others.
But knowing how to listen is a skill that not many can perfect. It’s a bit more complicated than it sounds! Here’s how the experts reveal 7 things that make you a good listener.
1. Reflecting the words of others
Mirroring other people has been known as a hallmark of good listeners during decades of research in sociology. But why does it work so well?
According to the The director of the Adam Goodman Leadership Center, There is a greater chance of misunderstanding someone than understanding simply because of the number of different factors that go into accurate communication and listening.
These three behaviors can cause misunderstandings:
- Unconsciously anticipate what the person will say, triggering preconceptions even before the person has spoken.
- Agree with the point initially, only to realize that the person meant something different a few sentences later
- Overthinking how best to respond to someone, which will cause you to deviate in your own train of thought and miss key information about the other.
Instead of doing this, there is a better way to pay attention: by reflecting. In the context of listening, mirroring refers to the act of paraphrasing and repeating someone’s statements in your own words. This not only makes them feel like they are listening to them, but it is also a positive form of active listening, but it also forces you to focus on trying to carefully understand the other person.
2. Make reasonable eye contact
Eye contact establishes feelings of trust and helps you connect with the person you are listening to. Looking away or refusing to look someone in the eye can send a lot of negative messages to the person you are trying to talk to.
Eye contact is a key sign that someone is listening, so lacking it usually conveys a lack of confidence or, worse, simply indifference. According to Michigan State University Extension Educator Jodi Schulz, This is, which specializes in youth development, resource development, family enrichment, and similar areas of expertise. It also outlines some great research-backed tips for doing positive eye contact:
- When listening to someone, you must maintain eye contact about 70% of the time (this drops to 50% while speaking)
- When looking at someone while listening, keep an open and interested expression and smile if appropriate.
- Maintain eye contact for about four to five seconds before looking away.
- When looking away, look slowly and relaxed to one side, not down or too fast; Doing either of the latter can make you appear nervous or unsure.
- Make this eye contact as soon as possible when someone starts talking to you.
- If you are not used to or are uncomfortable with eye contact, practice slowly and build confidence with the habit.
Naturally, certain neurodivergent individuals may not be able to maintain eye contact at all. If you are one of them, don’t worry! There are other ways to show that you are listening, and people who know you well enough will not take a lack of eye contact wrong.
3. Be present
You cannot hear something if you are far away. That’s why all those who know how to listen are able to be aware and present in their conversations, says the assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Paul Sacco, Ph.D. This awareness allows you to retain the information that is being told to you more easily, as you are paying much more attention.
To be present, you must:
- Turn off or put away devices and displays.
- Stop doing other chores, if possible.
- Clear your mind of other concerns for the moment.
- Direct your full attention to the speaker.
- Ignore all distractions until the conversation is over, if possible.
Distracted listening sends an apparent message, either consciously or unconsciously, to the person you are supposed to be listening to. When you get distracted, the conversation changes and they realize they are not important to you.
The conversations have nuances. If it is not present, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to properly understand all those nuances. So learn to focus on the person at hand!
4. Put the agenda aside
You can’t help but have a natural agenda in your life and interactions. Don’t feel bad about it, everyone has their own! But to be a good listener, you must learn to silence that hidden agenda that may exist within you.
It’s easy to think of yourself when others talk, but controlling your habits is your own responsibility, says MIT Leadership Center executive director Hal Gregersen. Calm your mind and turn off any schedule you may have. In addition, it is important for you, as a learning and growing individual, to hear information contrary to your normal thinking.
There is little point in listening to someone smart if you don’t walk away with more valuable information and thoughts than you initially had. If you think someone has new information to offer you, you are not listening well enough!
When you ask questions, you are providing “feedback” to the speaker that shows that you are not only listening, but also interested. It’s also a method of validating the speaker’s feelings, Sacco says, and can allow you to drive the conversation forward in thought-provoking ways that are satisfying to the person you’re listening to.
But of course, there is a little trick to asking questions that really promote a better conversation without taking the listener’s attention away. Essentially, you want to leave the listener with more positive thinking, feeling that they have been heard and understood.
Here are some tips for doing that when you are in a listener’s seat:
- Request clarifications and elaborations where you need them; this indicates that you are genuinely seeking to understand the other person.
- Be empathetic first and foremost; Put yourself in that person’s shoes and try to understand the struggles or perspectives they see.
- Try to target open questions that allow the speaker to elaborate easily and freely; “Yes” or “no” questions can quickly stop the conversation.
- Don’t ask questions that challenge or belittle the speaker; This will result in a defensive attitude and is a mark of a bad listener.
- Do not change the subject before the current subject has been resolved correctly or naturally; This gives the impression that you can’t be bothered to listen and want to rush things.
- Don’t naturally assume that you always have all the answers; your thoughts are not necessarily accurate for a person’s unique situation.
- Try to foster a genuine interest in the people you are listening to; Feigned interest is surprisingly easy to spot.
- Try to ask genuine questions, that is, those that really interest you to hear the answers; both of you will enjoy the conversation much more.
- Don’t speak until the other person has finished their work; interruption is not a sign of good listening in the least.
- Before speaking out of turn, ask yourself why you are speaking in the first place; If your speech cannot be productive, it is best to wait and continue listening first.
6. Don’t get defensive
Defensiveness is nothing more than a wall of pride that prevents you from seeing what you need. If you are on the defensive, you will ultimately not listen, and no trick will allow you to do both.
It’s actually pretty easy to hear well if they only tell you what you personally want to hear, says Sacco. The trick is to listen to someone who is saying things to you that could:
- Hurt your ego
- Criticize you or give you negative comments
- Confuses your thoughts with their implications
Yes, not all negative words spoken to you will have value worth retaining. But to sort out valuable and constructive criticism and meaningful, if difficult information and separate it from worthless negativity, you must first listen to it.
Easier said than done, but it’s important to start with a positive thought. Remember that you can improve yourself when you hear negative words. Focus on trying to understand what the other person is trying to tell you before reacting defensively.
If necessary, go back and take a moment to process the information. Sometimes learning to stop impulsive responses will make the difference between a productive and a non-productive listening experience.
7. Be a good leader
People who are good leaders inspire confidence in the people they work with. You cannot do that if you are not a good leader. In fact, many famous leaders, including Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson and Marriott International CEO JW “Bill” Marriott Jr., believe that listening to employees and asking for their input is critical to being a good employee. Leader. This is because:
- Listening to others gives you insight into other perspectives and ideas that emerge from other perspectives.
- Showing others that you care about their thoughts allows them to trust you more
- Respecting the opinions of others, even when you disagree with them, gives you additional insight into the way the world works.
Studies show that a large number of good listeners are perceived in positive paths as leaders and people worthy of responsibility. So strive to learn from the people around you, and you can listen better and be a better leader all rolled into one.
Being a good listener reflects your character well, shows others that you care, and, somewhat unexpectedly, gives you the opportunity to improve. You can learn a lot from the words of others, and you can also get closer ties with the people you listen to if you do a good job.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have trouble listening at first. It is a skill that you need to practice and develop over time. Give others time to talk and focus on understanding them, not attacking them or thinking of your own responses!