The skill of listening is as valuable as the crust around an apple pie and as important as sunscreen at the pool – but it’s as rare as getting a refund on our taxes. The skill of listening is available to all, but used by few.
Listening facilitates healthy, clear communication and is foundational to meaningful relationships. Being an attentive listener can propel our career and educational pursuits. Compassionate listening opens the door to healing and growth.
You might be a natural listener, but if you’re not – here are three tips that will help. They are quite simple and very effective. Remember, small and simple can lead to great things. Like in songwriting. I’ve been writing songs for 36 years. Most songs are written using three foundational chords: I, IV and V. That’s it! Can you believe it? Now you have insider songwriting information! Countless songs have been and will be written using those chords. They are powerful and they work – just like these three suggestions for becoming a better listener.
Remove Distractions. This is so important. How often do we multitask while listening? Sure, we can “hear” what someone is saying while we do the dishes or sweep the floor – but are we really listening to what they are saying? Probably not.
When a conversation begins – especially an important or sensitive one, put down the broom or the dish towel. Set the cell phone aside. Close the laptop. Turn the tv off. This will allow us to focus on what the other person is saying. They will sense the conversation is important to us and they will feel valued. They may even open up more when they know we care – and they can tell we care when we give our full attention.
By removing distractions, we will also be able to see their body language. So much is communicated through facial expressions and body language. We can observe those subtle elements of communication when we focus on the conversation and put distractions to the side.
Make Eye Contact. Once we have removed distractions, we are ready to begin a conversation. Whether the conversation is fun, deep, stressful, humorous or sad – we are fully present and ready for what is coming our way. As the discussion unfolds, it is important look into the eyes of the person we are talking to. We don’t have to stare ‘em down. It’s not a staring contest – we’re allowed to blink! Let it feel natural – our eyes don’t need to be glued to theirs. But, making eye contact, facing the person we’re talking to and nodding to show we understand all increase the likelihood of a successful interaction. Making eye contact is a simple thing – but it will elevate the quality of our conversations by 783%. (I made that percentage up – so let’s just say “a whole lot.”)
Don’t Plan Your Response. Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” We have all experienced conversations like that.
Often when someone is talking, we think about what we want to say next. Something they say triggers something we want to say and we want to jump in. We want to interrupt. We lose track of what they are talking about because we want to talk. A healthy, enjoyable conversation goes both ways, of course. It is natural to want to share our thoughts too. Just be careful to stay present. Keep listening. If we don’t get to insert something right away, we can make a mental note (heck, we can even make an actual note) so when we do get a chance, we’ll be able to share.
We each have the potential to become better listeners. We have it in us! We do! Choose one of these three tips and put it into practice. Or, if you are feeling ambitious, dive in and try all three! We’ll see our interactions with others improve. Our conversations will deepen and become more meaningful and fun.
Blog to you soon,
Oh, and I hope you get a tax refund this time.
How well do you listen? Let’s find out! Take this listening quiz.