Greetings and the very best to you for 2010.
How many times has someone asked you how you were, but doesn't take the time to listen to your reply? They may cut you off, start talking about themselves, or walk away. If you're like most of us, this behaviour probably leaves a sour taste in your mouth. People want to be heard and listened to; they want to feel like someone cares.
At the start of a new decade we may want to look at ourselves to see if we exhibit some of those same behaviours we dislike. Do we make every attempt to hear and listen to those around you? If you find that your listening skills are poor or need some tweaking, here are a few tips on how to be a better listener.
1. Make a commitment to improve your listening skills. We should remember that listening is not a skill with which we were born. We have to learn how to develop good listening skills, and continuously practice what we learn.
2. Talk less and listen more. Is that why we have 2 ears and one mouth? Most people like to talk, especially about themselves. When listening to someone, we might want to jump in and offer an opinion or suggestion. However, make every effort not to do so. Let them be fully heard. In your mind, repeat every word he or she says, immediately after it has been said. This will help you keep your own thoughts from surfacing, as you will be listening only to the speaker's words.
3. Whether you are listening to a friend or someone you work with give them your undivided attention. Make sure there are no distractions such as phones, computers or TV that would interfere with your giving full attention to the speaker. If the distractions are unavoidable, try to separate yourself from them to the best of your ability.
4. Display objectivity when listening to others. Set aside your own thoughts, judgments, and experiences. Act as if you don't have any attachment to what is being said.
5. When listening to people with different viewpoints, put yourself in their shoes. Although you may not agree with them, it might help you to better understand their perspective. Try to find a common ground; areas in which you both agree.
6. Wait until a person has finished speaking before you respond. If you are deciding how to respond while the person is speaking, you are not truly listening to him.
7. In order to communicate that the individual has been heard, summarize or paraphrase what was just said to confirm that you heard it correctly.
8. When listening to someone, takes notes, if needed, to remember important points.
9. As you listen to people, pay attention to how they are conveying their message. Are they loud? Are they speaking quickly? Which words do they use to express what they are feeling? What is the tone of their voice? Their tone generally reflects how they are feeling about the issue. You may speak louder and the tone may change when you are angry, upset, or passionate about something. You may talk faster when you are excited. When you are unhappy, you may talk more slowly, and the tone of your voice may be sad or flat.
10. When listening to others, also observe their body language, as sometimes the individual's words and non-verbal behaviors will be saying different things. Are their arms and/or legs crossed? Are they looking directly at you or avoiding eye contact? Is their body turned away from you? Typically, these are signs that the person is "closed" from having a conversation; he may be embarrassed, or trying to avoid a confrontation, or simply doesn't want to talk. Conversely, if they are smiling, looking directly at you, and look relaxed, they may be open to dialogue.
Listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another person. By honing our listening skills, we will be a better friend, partner or colleague. People will naturally gravitate towards us, and appreciate us. "