We are often far more enthusiastic about talking than we are about listening. Yet it is so vital if we are to communicate effectively. Most breakdowns in relationships are caused by people talking at each other without making contact. Unless someone hears what has been said, including the subtext, the words have little value.
When actively listened to, we feel valued and are far more likely to engage in negotiation and compromise.
Listening is about far more than words. Watching facial expressions and body language is often a far more accurate barometer than the words that are being used.
Nice things being said where the smile doesn't reach the eyes is an obvious example.
To be an effective listener, you must listen actively.
Ten tips for becoming a more effective listener
Make eye contact.
Read the body language of the talker. Are they relaxed, anxious, or angry? Extremes are easy to recognize, but often the message is much more subtle.
Mirror the talker's body language - subtly, a gentle dance rather than a caricature.
Show that you are listening, nod, and make appropriate responses.
Ask relevant questions, and ask them to clarify if you are unclear about their meaning.
Summarize. "So what you are saying is..."
Use open-ended questions, the who, what, where, and when.
Be careful of the tone of your voice when you respond or ask questions. It is all too easy to come across as judgmental or as an interrogator.
Use empathy. Acknowledge difficulties, but be careful not to fall into the trap of going into anecdotes from your experience. "I sense that you are finding this rather difficult," rather than "Oh, I know, it happened to me, but mine was bigger, more difficult, etc."
Take a genuine interest. The lack of sincerity will be apparent to others if you go through the motions. Leave your ego behind, and concentrate on the other person.
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