You hear it everywhere these days, Friend, and rightfully so:
It Is Extremely Important To Be A Good Listener
The problem is – and I have been here a culprit myself, I must admit – that people usually don’t clarify what exactly it means for someone to be a good listener, and how one goes about acquiring and developing such a skill.
So, let me start by providing a definition of what it means to be a good listener.
First of all it means:
To Be Able To Absorb And Understand Everything
That The Person Whom You Listen To Is Telling You
Taking this into consideration, we can then say that to be a good listener also means:
To Be Able To Come Up With The Proper Reaction
– Or Lack Thereof –
To What You Have Listened
Now, let’s proceed with looking at 7 concrete ways you can become the best listener you could ever be.
1. By Fixing Your Attention On The Speaker,
For As Long As They Speak
This may sound as a very intuitive thing – so much as one would be tempted not to bring it up at all in this context – but that is not necessarily the case…
You see, at any time, there is always a multitude of things, both outside and inside of you, demanding your attention.
And it is helpful to stress that the latter things – I am referring to the seemingly endless stream of thoughts running through your head – are even more intensely and sneakily attention-demanding than the events of the outer world.
So, in order to have your attention fixed on the speaker and listen to everything they have to say, you first have to be consciously – and constantly – aware of all such potential distractions / attention deficit generators, to be found both in your outer environment as well as within you.
Then, you can proactively neutralize their grip on you, at the very the moment they “attack” you, so as to manage, thereafter, to have your attention fully committed to the speaker.
And the way to do so is to “catch them on the act”, that is at the very moment they try to divert your attention. Seeing them, then, for what they truly are – mere, meaningless distractions and nothing more – you just let them pass through you and go, and you instantly resume your listening in full awareness mode.
2. By Refraining From Preparing Any Response In Your Mind,
Before The Speaker Has Finished Talking
In our conversations with other human beings – which constitute the most frequent form of our interaction with them – there is often a tendency in us to prepare what we have to respond, before the other party has even finished saying what they have, or want, to say.
There are many reasons for this, such as our urge to tamp down our insecurities, fears, and concerns and make sure they what we believe is important is really spelt out vocally and heard.
But, of course, such an approach can easily derail a conversation and lead to a much more undesired outcome, compared to how things would have gone if we weren’t conducting this second, hypothetical dialogue – monologue, really – in our mind and weren’t allowing ourselves to be carried away by it.
So, the advice here is: relax, don’t worry and give the other side all the time they need to fully and properly articulate what they want to convey to you.
Give them your complete attention, take in all they have to say, and only then, once they are truly done, prepare and furnish your reaction, which you should then entirely base upon what you have heard, and not at all on your imagination or your unfounded assumptions and impressions.
3. By Making Sure You Ask Questions
About Whatever You Didn’t Understand
The art of listening is the art of eliminating any grey areas of misunderstanding.
But in order for you to ensure such clarity, you have to always be bold enough to ask all the questions you need to ask.
Don’t be afraid to ask about something that you failed to immediately understand; and don’t be afraid to do so even a second or a third time.
Yes, as the case may be, it is likely that you momentarily frustrate or infuriate the person you are interacting with. But this is always much much more preferable than ending up in a situation whereby you establish understandings and concomitant courses of action that are based on grounds that may be from quite uncertain to flat-out wrong.
So… ask away anything you must, until the essence of what the person talking to you is trying to convey is crystal clear to you! Don’t be shy about it. Besides, asking a lot of questions is a very strong indication of your interest in the subject matter as well as the speaker.
What more encouraging and flattering sign could the latter ask for?
4. By Exercising Empathy Towards The Speaker
We, human beings, are emotional creatures.
Naturally, when a topic someone is talking to us about truly interests us, it is all but certain that we will invest the time, effort and attention necessary to follow what they say as closely as possible.
However, our listening capability soars to new heights whenever we are able to exercise actual empathy and / or sympathy towards the speaker. We truly become good listeners on a whole new level when we can step in the speaker’s shoes, so to say, and are able to, not just intellectually perceive but also, feel in our bones the gist of what they are talking about.
In such cases whereby we achieve a very high degree of empathy and sympathy with the speaker, we get scales of magnitude more engaged in our communication. Then, it is not uncommon at all that the latter may truly begin to resemble telepathy.
And it is really not so difficult to be empathetic or sympathetic with any other human being, as long as we are on the lookout for certain cues and hints in their verbal and nonverbal communication that we can honestly relate to, on a deeper level.
Such nuances are always there as long as you may sure you keep your antennae open to consciously receive them.
5. By Becoming Less Preoccupied With Your Conditioned Reactions
And By Suspending Your Reflexive Evaluations And Judgments
The key here is that you come to terms with, and thereafter consciously adopt, the following approach:
Every time you listen to someone, pretend it’s the very first time you do so, even if you have heard them speaking to you a thousand times before.
Remember that, despite what appearances which are similar (on the surface) may seem to dictate to you, there are no two instances that are alike in your life.
With this understanding firmly established in your mind, it’s easier to maintain your innocence as an active listener and refraining from jumping on the toxic bandwagon of your conditioned reactions and reflexive evaluations and judgments, which may be triggered by one or the other word or phrase that the person you are listening to happens to mention.
It is then much easier to see how such reactions on your side distort – practically butcher – any decent attempt at objective and open listening – let alone communication – as they push you to decide in advance about what it is that you should hear and interpret the speaker saying, much before the latter has finished – even started, in extreme cases – talking.
6. By Avoiding Multitasking
If it is not directly clear – also from the points above – how and why multitasking is a killer for any kind of meaningful listening, please read this post, in which I elaborate on the detrimental consequences that this ill-advised “Holy Grail” of efficiency and productivity of our times has – also – on your listening skills…
7. By Being Open To Finding Out
How Exactly You Fit Into The Picture
The Speaker Draws With Their Words
Whenever someone is telling you something – regardless of how important or trivial, long or short, big or small that thing may seem to you – imagine that they are painting a picture, or writing a story, in which there is – by definition – a very special place reserved for you.
You can freely and easily assume this is always the case, in the understanding that, otherwise, you wouldn’t be willing to spend even one second of your time to listen to any other person talking to you in the first place.
In this sense, your job as a listener is to take as a given that such a picture or story is in place, and thereafter to understand exactly how you fit in that particular picture; what is precisely your role in that very story.
If you prefer, this process is also something like figuring out the rules of a game – usually not a very intricate one.
By adopting such an outlook, your listening automatically becomes a much more fun and enjoyable activity.
And it also becomes, of course, much more acute and receptive.
There you have it, then! These are the 7 ways to make you a stellar listener!
Now, to conclude this post, let me say this:
In this era we are living, whereby you are experiencing such a constant, buzzing, background noise – both literal and metaphorical – to be a good listener becomes more and more difficult of a skill to acquire, but it also gets all the the more important, in order for you to surge and thrive.
Therefore, there is no question about it: by cultivating your listening skills, you will stand out in this evermore complex world of ours.
Becoming a better listener will moreover allow you to remain connected with what is truly going on outside and inside of you, instead of losing yourself in the impossibly intricate cobweb of your self-centered thoughts.
So, learn how to listen well and clearly, both to others as well as to your true self.
Trust me, you will be doing a huge service to yourself – again, your TRUE self.
Until next time,
Listen, listen, listen; and judge not what you listen!