How often do you find yourself in a conversation where you appear to be listening, but in reality, your mind is elsewhere? Or, instead of actively listening, you’re already formulating your response before the person is even done giving you the full story? I believe that this happens to the best of us.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘listen’ is a verb defined as follows: to pay attention to someone or something in order to hear what is being said, sung, played, etc. Although a simple concept, actively listening can prove to be difficult, especially considering all of the distractions that we deal with on a daily basis.
Whether in a professional or personal setting, below are three techniques I try to put into practice when listening.
Focus. Tuning out all outside distractions can actually be the most difficult thing to do. Turning away from your computer screen, putting your phone down, and giving 100 percent of your attention to the person to whom you are listening can go a long way. Maintaining eye contact is also key.
Relax. This is most applicable when you’re on the receiving end of a complaint, criticism, or something negative. It’s human nature to tense up and go on the defensive, but if you’re able to relax, you’re much more likely to listen to what is actually being said.
Process. Don’t feel as though you can’t and shouldn’t take time to process what you’ve just heard. Even when an immediate response is required, it’s best to give yourself time to fully digest all the facts and formulate your thoughts before responding with a knee-jerk reaction. If acceptable given the situation, know that it’s ok to follow-up if you don’t have the answer.
What are some examples that you use to fine tune your listening skills?