Whether you are conversing with a friend who asks for advice, meeting with work colleagues who desire your input or attending a classroom lecture, your listening skills can make a great difference in regard to the outcome of your experience.
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If you only listen to a discussion half-heartedly, you risk missing out on important information that might have an impact on your success in personal and professional relationships. Take the time to develop sharp listening skills using the ten strategies outlined below – doing so will help the people in your life to view you as trustworthy, focused, approachable, determined and in tune with any situation.
1. Maintain Eye Contact And Avoid Distractions
In order to demonstrate that you are truly committed to listening, look the speaker in the eye as they talk. This gives you a focal point and discourages you from checking your phone, daydreaming or engaging in other activities that divert your attention.
2. Assume A Welcoming And Engaged Posture
People are more likely to view you as a good listener if your body language is receptive, open and encouraging. Refrain from scowling, crossing your arms or turning your head away from the speaker. Instead, position yourself so that you are relaxed and facing the person to whom you are listening.
3. Pause Before Chiming Into The Conversation
One roadblock to developing good listening skills involves “not waiting to talk,” or concentrating so intently on jumping into the conversation that you do not fully grasp what the other person is saying. Adopt the habit of absorbing what you have just heard for a few moments, taking a breath and then responding.
4. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer are good to ask if you are working on improving your ability to listen effectively. When a speaker says something to you, respond with an open-ended question that furthers the discussion – you will naturally listen for the reply.
5. Comment About Shared Experiences Or Opinions
Finding common ground with a fellow speaker aids you in paying attention to the overall conversation and contributing to a fruitful discussion. Listen for comments on topics that you have an interest in and offer your input with enthusiasm, thereby facilitating a productive two-way exchange of ideas.
6. Keep Your Emotions At An Even Keel
When your emotions get out of control, your capacity to listen to what someone else is saying can easily be impaired. Even if your conversation becomes tense in nature, try to remain as even-tempered as possible so that anger, frustration, anxiety or other strong emotions do not overtake your focus.
7. Pay Attention To Non-Verbal Cues
Sharpen your observational skills by honing in on not only what is said by another speaker, but also what is unsaid. Non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, posture and nervous habits help you to interpret the bigger picture of a conversation, which in turn prompts you to listen more closely.
8. Refrain From Trying To End The Conversation Quickly
You are much less prone to actually listening to what someone is conveying if you are in a rush and attempting to wrap up the exchange as fast as you can. When possible, set up meetings and conversations during periods where you have ample free time to concentrate and participate.
9. Focus On Key Words And Phrases
If you are listening to a lecture or other type of conversation where you do not get the opportunity to speak for a prolonged amount of time, try to maintain your interest by listening for the most important points of the discussion. Take notes to further encourage your desire to absorb information.
10. Be Mindful Of Your Attention Span
Even the best listeners find themselves drifting off during a talk or meeting on occasion. Train yourself to “snap back” into listening when you sense your attention span starting to dwindle; for instance, pinch your arm lightly as a physical reminder to refocus.