Become more engaged with others by developing these characteristics of a good listener. You’ll be a better employee and leader, and your personal relationships will also improve by listening deeper. See what makes a good listener and how you can change your current habits to become one.
1. Understand the Speaker
One of the most important characteristics of a good listener is having a two-way conversation with the speaker. Asking questions that summarize what the speaker said shows how well you’ve listened. An example would be, “So what you’re saying is …?” These questions also give the chance for the speaker to clarify anything that may have been misconstrued.
Another of the characteristics of a good listener is knowing when to break for questions. The end of the discussion is a natural place to ask for clarification by putting the speaker’s ideas into your own words. You can also ask before shifting topics or after the speaker has just given a large amount of information. Any time you feel uncertain, always ask the speaker for clarification to help you understand the rest of the conversation.
2. Fight Distractions
Modern technology tries to steal your attention from face-to-face conversations. It’s difficult to ignore a buzzing phone or new text message. You must make a concerted effort to put aside these distractions to become a good listener. Though difficult, put down your phone. Turn it off if you must, but rid yourself of distractions when listening.
Brown University auditory neuroscientist Seth Horowitz claims listening today is much harder than it was in past eras. Luckily, you’re not destined to be a bad listener forever just because you live in the 21st century.
3. Check Your Body Language
What you don’t say during a conversation is as important as what you do say. When listening, focus on your body language. Every part of your stance should indicate your attentiveness. Make and keep eye contact with the speaker, and nod when the situation demands to show you’re listening.
Avoid body language that indicates distraction. Keep your hands free. Even if you naturally fidget, put your fidgeting device down while you listen. Fidgeting is an ineffective listening behavior that conveys a lack of attention, whether that is true or not.
4. Offer Quality Advice
When someone requests you listen, you should be ready to take in information and give it out. Offering advice after the speaker has finished shows you have listened carefully and can provide input. The advice you give should not box the speaker into a single option. Instead, present a broader range of choices. This removes your judgment, since you are not giving only one option that you feel is right.
It’s important to be careful when giving advice. You don’t want to inject your opinions while listening or advising. It’s better to empathize with the listener by understanding their stance, even if it differs from your own. This could be hard, depending on the topic at hand. Like other listening skills, empathy and advising take practice.
Strive to Be a Good Listener
The more you practice listening skills, the easier they become. However, this is not typically a skill you are actively taught the way you were reading and writing. Since communication always involves both parties, listening to what is said is just as important as saying something noteworthy.
Don’t miss a chance to practice your listening skills. With time, you’ll be able to overcome the difficulty of paying attention in the modern era as you develop your ability to become an effective listener.
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