Have you ever thought about the secret to effective communication? Many people think that just speaking clearly is enough. But think about it: if everyone was only talking, who would listen?
Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
It is important to remember that listening is as crucial for effective communication as speaking. In fact, it is likely that each of us already spends more time listening to others than speaking. Does that mean that all listeners are good listeners? Sadly, no!
We tend to hear things with different intentions. This affects how we absorb what we hear. Sometimes we listen as a courtesy even though we don’t engage in a conversation. Or we listen to people during an argument to frame a response. We listen the least when we are bored or distracted.
But listening is important. Whether you are having a coffee conversation, a team meeting, or a serious family discussion, you need listening skills to communicate effectively.
Listening with focus and understanding helps build stronger relationships. It increases empathy and prevents miscommunication. Listening skills exercises will help you become a more attentive listener. The tips below will help you understand how you can improve listening skills with examples of active listening.
How to improve listening skills
If you have ever wondered how to develop listening skills, read on. Following these tips and doing listening skills exercises will improve your capabilities:
Make eye contact
Let’s start with some examples of active listening to understand the importance of eye contact in listening.
Ishani was frustrated with her colleague, Ved, who often used her ideas without giving her credit. She went to her boss with her complaint. The boss listened to Ishani with an open mind. Although he had a busy day, he did not multitask while Ishani shared her problems. He maintained eye contact with her throughout and nodded at intervals. His expressions conveyed understanding, empathy, and concern. After the conversation, Ishani felt better as she felt heard.
Making eye contact, whether you are talking or listening, is essential. Remember, listening to someone is just not about hearing their words. It’s more about giving your undivided attention and listening to their nonverbal cues.
So when you are trying to be a good listener, hold the speaker’s gaze most of the time. It expresses interest, focus, and understanding.
Adopt an open posture
Have you ever noticed someone from a distance and guessed their mood or thoughts? Let’s say you are in a meeting and some people are slouching or fidgeting. It’s easy to conclude that they are bored or disinterested. Others may be sitting straight, leaning slightly towards the person speaking. This shows that they are engaged and listening attentively.
Your body language, especially your posture, conveys volumes about your interest and focus while listening. For example, folding your arms may indicate displeasure. Tapping your feet can show your impatience and disinterest. Slouching can indicate boredom.
To improve listening skills, be more aware of your body language. This is important not just at the start of the conversation, but until the end. Standing in front of the mirror and working on your gestures and postures is among the simple active listening exercises you can try.
Show you’re listening
Smaller gestures such as smiling and nodding occasionally are easily overlooked when you think about how to develop listening skills. Don’t worry, smiling and nodding will not distract the person speaking. It shows you want to hear more without having to interrupt the person to say ‘please continue’.
Listen to understand
Did you know that there are different types of listeners? Some listen so they can reply. Some listen till they get the answers. Others listen just for the sake of it. Then some listen to understand.
What kind of listener do you think you are? A good listener always has the desire to gain something–advice, opinion, or perhaps knowledge, from the speaker. A good listener always listens to understand. This requires the most important thing–patience. Being patient and letting the other person talk, and sharing your views only after that is a hallmark of good listening skills.
If you are interested, curious, and patient in every conversation, you will become a better listener and have more fruitful conversations.
Want a rock-solid roadmap on how to improve listening skills? Join Harappa Education’s Listening Actively course for tips from experts. This course teaches the ABC of Active Listening, which are the Affective, Behavioral, and Cognitive aspects of listening. This framework will help you understand the different aspects of listening with examples of active listening. Join the course today to begin your listening journey!
Explore topics and skills such as Active Listening Skills, Barriers to Effective Listening, Characteristics of a Good Listener, Stages of Listening and the Principles of Listening from our Harappa Diaries blog section to ace your soft skills.
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