At some point or another in life, we all want to be heard. When someone really listens to us, we feel appreciated, loved, and inspired. Unfortunately, there are times when we have all felt like no one hears us when we are speaking. In today’s world filled with distractions, it is becoming increasingly challenging to capture someone’s attention for longer than thirty seconds. The good news is that it is possible to become a better listener by following three easy steps.
1. Put away all distractions and don’t interrupt. No matter how tempting it is, it is important to remember how you feel when you are interrupted while speaking, whether with words or a ringing cell phone. Does it make you want to shut down? Stop talking? Give up expressing your feelings? By putting yourself in the speaker’s shoes, you will remember how valued you feel when someone really listens to you. Actively listening does not mean you have to agree with the speaker. It simply means you are showing respect for a fellow human being and their freedom to voice their views and feelings. Silence your cell phone and stash it in your pocket or purse until the conversation has concluded.
2. Make eye contact, smile, nod, and take notes if necessary. Show you are interested. If you feel your mind begin to wander, slowly bring yourself back to the present. Keeping eye contact shows the speaker you are focused and interested. Smiling and nodding are also two indicators that you are engaged in the conversation. If you need extra help in paying attention, take notes. Write down highlights of the conversation and then circle key points. Studies have shown that taking notes by hand improves learning and retention. More importantly, it demonstrates to the speaker that you are attentive and care about what they are saying. Finally, try not plan what you will say when they are done speaking.
3. Repeat what the speaker is saying. Once the speaker has finished, it is okay to ask for clarification to ensure you’ve understood. You might say, “I want to make sure I’ve heard you correctly. You want me to know that …” Leave yourself open to correction as we often hear what we want to hear, not what is actually being said. This technique also leaves the speaker open to hearing what they’ve said and to emphasize a point or rectify an assumption.
Listening is one of the kindest things you can do for another person. By putting ourselves in the speaker’s shoes, we can embrace the skill of really listening—not just to the words, but to the power behind the words. After all, as the wise already know, great leaders always listen more than they talk.
Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.