I’m not a good listener. What can I do?

The answer:  Talk less, listen more!  OK, you are thinking: Hard to argue with that point; but sometimes it’s difficult to do.  Relationships are built through communications. Exchanging ideas move a connection forward and we find ourselves in conversations daily—so what’s the problem?  Few of us are skilled in the art of ”good listening. ”  We have developed the habits of “managing” the conversation—which usually means talking too much and interrupting too often—even texting while we (or others) are speaking!  We need to balance our desire to engage and add to a conversation with the other person’s need to know he or she has been heard and his/her message understood.

If you want to improve your listening skills, begin by understanding that everyone in a conversation believes he/she has something to share and wants to know you care enough about them to let them say it. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to listen.  Here are 10 ways to show interest and demonstrate ”good listening”:

  1. Make the time to let the person tell his/her story.
  2. Learn and use the other person’s name.
  3. Avoid interrupting.
  4. Use the listening time to think about questions that would identify what you have in common, clarify an important point or gather more data rather than thinking about what you will say when it’s your turn to talk.
  5. Ask one question at a time.
  6. Allow for a response and then ask a follow up question.
  7. Show interest nonverbally by being relaxed, nodding, engaging in eye contact, respecting personal space.
  8. Use silence as a time to reflect.
  9. Don’t try to be clever; rather think “How can I contribute to the conversation?”
  10. Keep the technology out of sight and turned off.

By focusing your full attention on the person and showing genuine interest in what he/she has to say you will be seen (and become) a ”good listener.”  And the added benefit: when you listen, you might be surprised what you learn.  You may even recognize how little you really know. 

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