“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen Covey
Active listening is an art. It isn’t something we automatically do, rather it is something we learn and develop. A child, for example, has to learn how to stop and listen. They aren’t ready for school until they have mastered skills in staying still and listening. Those that are better listener’s are often also better learners.
The sad news is that we often don’t develop our listening skills beyond what is needed for learning. Conversational listening remains an art to be developed and learned. The point is that we need to listen to be effective leaders and to help us resolve our differences. A big advantage of honing the art of listening is an increase in charisma. Best selling author Bryant McGill said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
The best thing I learned in my adult life has been how to listen. Listening has enabled me to make friends in many parts of the world as well as how to negotiate difficult contracts. Beyond that, though, listening has opened up a new world to me — a very, exciting and interesting world that has taken me beyond myself.
Below are a three tips to hone your listening skills.
- Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Make sure you are looking at the person while they speak. Resist the urge to glance at your cell phone for text messages or to let your gaze travel away. Letting our gaze stray also encourages our minds to wander as well.
- Focus on the words. Focus intently on the words people are saying to you. Use techniques like restating or summarizing what was said to assure that you have understood exactly what the person is saying. Don’t be afraid to ask a clarifying question if you don’t understand. The point is to pay attention to all aspects of the conversation.
- Hold all judgement aside. While you are listening, hold all judgement aside. Try to understand what the other person is saying as well as understand where they are coming from. Judgement gets in the way of understanding another person’s perspective, so holding it aside will help gain a deeper understanding of what is underneath what the other person is saying.
The secret to developing any art is practice, practice, practice. Enjoy the practice!