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Lend an Ear: Listening Skills

To be successful in life, you need to be a good communicator. Communication is more than just speaking eloquently or choosing the right words to express your wants and needs. It goes much deeper than that. Properly communicating also means honing your listening skills. 

Being a good listener is an invaluable quality that will serve you well, both professionally and personally. Sometimes it’s hard, though! We get it. If you’re in your third meeting of the day and a speaker is droning on and on, it’s easy to stop listening and start thinking about your never-ending to-do list or what you should eat for dinner tonight. Or if your spouse is telling you the same story for the fifth time, it’s tempting to drift off into a daydream. 

However, if you put a little bit of time and effort into improving your listening abilities, you will be rewarded in a multitude of ways! Here are some basic tips for lending an ear:

 

Be Attentive

Be sure that you’re actually paying attention to the speaker. This means making and maintaining eye contact, having good posture, and being in the moment (aka not scrolling through your phone while pretending to listen). 

Nodding or giving other non-verbal cues to the person talking is a good behavior to employ, as it shows that you’re with him or her and actively listening. 

Stay silent until the speaker has completed his or her statement or thought. No one likes to be interrupted. Not only is it rude, but it throws off the natural rapport and flow of a conversation. Don’t plan ahead and formulate what you’re going to say before someone has even finished speaking. 

 

Withhold Judgment

It may take a bit of practice, but a large part of being a good listener is keeping an open mind. It’s important to remain open to new ideas, different perspectives, and unique opinions. 

Even if you disagree with someone, you should avoid judgement and keep any arguments or criticism to yourself. There’s no need to create an argument or try to convince someone to have the same thought process or belief system as you. It’s not a debate; it’s a conversation.  

 

Ask Questions and Clarify

Build rapport and trust with someone by asking questions. Go beyond the simple “yes” or “no” questions. We recommend asking open-ended questions, as they elicit longer, more thoughtful responses. 

Feel free to request clarification if necessary. Don’t just nod and pretend like you understand if something was unclear or confusing. 

 

Stay Attuned and Reflect Feelings.

You will feel more connected to the speaker (and thus be a better listener) if you stay attuned to their feelings. 

Mirror his or her emotions and demonstrate genuine concern. For example, if the speaker says, “I always get stuck with doing the work for the entire group,”  try labeling the feelings and reflecting them back: “You’re probably feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Is that correct?”

 

Summarize

As the conversation winds down, summarize and restate key themes to ensure everyone is on the same page. This helps all parties clarify any outstanding responsibilities or follow-up plans.  

Practicing active listening is a skill that should be exercised like a muscle. If you’re interested in improving not only your listening skills, but also your team’s, consider investing in JB Partners’ Business Coaching. We have built our Business Coaching around understanding your customers, teams, and procedures, and providing coaching and guidance to help achieve your goals.

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