The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.
Listening is far too often overlooked as a skill that is important to businesspeople. Like all skills, it can be learned and improved on with practice. There are many elements that go into being a good listener- read below for some tips.
3 steps of active listening
Hearing- Hearing just means listening enough to catch what the speaker is saying. For example, say you were listening to a report on zebras, and the speaker mentioned that no two are alike. If you can repeat the fact, then you have heard what has been said.
Understanding- The next part of listening happens when you take what you have heard and understand it in your own way. Let’s go back to that report on zebras. When you hear that no two are alike, think about what that might mean. You might think, “Maybe this means that the pattern of stripes is different for each zebra.”
Judging- After you are sure you understand what the speaker has said, think about whether it makes sense. Do you believe what you have heard? You might think, “How could the stripes to be different for every zebra? But then again, the fingerprints are different for every person. I think this seems believable.” Reflective Listening
A good listener tries to understand how the other is experiencing the interaction and to shape their responses so that other person understands from where they are coming. There are four key elements to reflective listening.
We all have a strong tendency to advise, tell, agree, or disagree from our own point of view. Empathy is the listener’s effort to understand the speakers internal frame of reference rather than an external point of view, such as a theory; a set of standards, or the listener’s preferences. Expressed verbally: “I follow you,” “I’m with you” or “I understand”. You should be as non-judgmental as possible while listening. A person who sees that a listener is really trying to understand his or her meanings will be willing to explore his or her problems and self more deeply.
You should having respect for a person for simply being a person- this acceptance should be as unconditional as possible to best encourage a free flow of information. Avoid expressing agreement or disagreement with what the other person says. This encourages the other person to be less defensive and to explore aspects that they might otherwise keep hidden
Congruence refers to openness, frankness, and genuineness on the part of the listener. Candor on the part of the listener tends to evoke candor in the speaker. This can, however, be at odds with the principles of empathy and acceptance.
Focusing on specifics rather than vague generalities is the principle of concreteness. Often a person who is has a problem will avoid painful feelings by being abstract or impersonal, using expressions like “sometimes there are situations that are difficult” (which is vague and abstract). The listener can encourage concreteness by asking the speaker to be more specific. For example, instead of a agreeing with a statement like, “You just can’t trust a teacher. They care about themselves first and you second”, you can ask to what specific incident the speaker is referring.
We listen and give feedback with our faces as well as our ears and the words we speak. Professor Alfred Mehrabian of Stanford, studied congruence and incongruent communication. He found that when ‘mixed messages’ were deliberately sent, 7% of people believed the words, 38% believed the message expressed in the tonality, and 55% believed the message expressed in the physiology, or body language.
Tips for being a good listener
- Give your full attention to the person speaking
- Make sure your mind is focused, too. It can be easy to let your mind wander if you think you know what the person is going to say next, but you might be wrong! If you feel your mind wandering, change the position of your body and try to concentrate on the speaker’s words.
- Let the speaker finish before you begin to talk. Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted. When you interrupt, it looks like you aren’t listening, even if you really are.
- Let yourself finish listening before you begin to speak! You can’t really listen if you are busy thinking about what you want say next.
- Listen for main ideas. The main ideas are the most important points the speaker wants to get across. They may be mentioned at the start or end of a talk, and repeated a number of times. Pay special attention to statements that begin with phrases such as “My point is…” or “The thing to remember is…”
- Ask questions. If you are not sure you understand what the speaker has said, just ask. It is a good idea to repeat in your own words what the speaker said so that you can be sure your understanding is correct. For example, you might say, “When you said that no two zebras are alike, did you mean that the stripes are different on each one?”
Time is on your side! Thoughts move about four times as fast as speech.
I hope this helps you to improve your listening skills.
Have a great week!!!