In this fast-paced digital world, everyone is engaged in a busy work environment, glued to their cell-phones and laptop screens all day. Listening skills have therefore become a commodity hard to find in potential work candidates.
Listening to people attentively helps build relationships, resolve conflicts, and improve efficiency at work. At school, if you are a good listener, you will remember to turn in assignments and prepare for quizzes on time. At work, good listening skills will reduce errors and confusion in your tasks.
How to Improve Your Listening Skills
Active listening skills help save time, money, and resources. In this article, we have compiled a list of proven techniques that you can use to be an effective listener. These are also professional skills that everyone should have in the workplace.
Maintain Eye Contact
The first step to listening well is to face the speaker and maintain eye contact. If you are looking away, or your eyes are on your phone, you will come off as disinterested and indifferent.
When you engage with the person who is speaking to you through eye contact, you choose to actively listen to them, following their words and body language carefully. Eye contact establishes interest and acknowledgment of the speaker.
Maintaining eye contact and being physically present is not enough, you also need to be mentally present. Pay attention to what the other person is saying and acknowledge it through a nod, a few words, your facial expressions, or your body language.
Screen out any internal or external distractions that take away your focus. You can also practice active listening by having conversational partners, for instance, your friends or family members. Ask them to talk, while you participate in active listening. Note their feedback on areas you could improve on.
Active listening involves listening to the other person without any judgments or biases. As a listener, you must engage in the conversation instead of being a casual bystander. This doesn’t mean that you should interrupt the person. Rather, engage and provide feedback once they are done talking.
You can ask questions, or share a comment or suggestion based on the information you heard. For instance, if you are in a meeting at work and your manager opens the floor to questions, you should take that moment to say something valuable.
For example, you could provide insight on the topic discussed or ask an open-ended question. Once you provide your feedback, you will come off as an attentive and focused person who values other people’s time and is keen to suggest improvements for the team.
Interrupting people has become so common in groups that it’s hard to keep a conversation going without any pauses. Usually, you might interrupt someone to share a similar experience or provide insight into the topic. It is perfectly fine to engage, but you must be careful with your timing.
Wait for the other person to stop talking and then take your turn to begin sharing. Interrupting someone is considered rude and disrespectful and doesn’t leave a good impression of you on the speaker or other listeners.
Know the Context
In a networking event or a social gathering, you might join a group while they are in the middle of a conversation. You will be clueless about the topic of discussion. Don’t assume things and provide unnecessary feedback.
Instead, listen to their conversation for a while and try to gauge the topic. If you are confused, ask questions. Ask them what they are talking about, so you can be clear on the context behind the discussion and also actively engage in it.
Don’t be a Know-it-All
Acting like you know everything sends the wrong message to people involved in a conversation. If you portray yourself as someone who knows everything, they will see you as an obnoxious and arrogant person.
Remember that no one can possibly know everything. Think of yourself as a student of knowledge, someone who is learning every step of the way. Know-it-alls don’t listen to others, they interrupt, and take over the whole conversation. This leaves a bitter feeling among everyone involved in the discourse.
Best Courses for Listening Skills
Just like any other soft skills, listening is a skill you can learn. Not everyone is a great listener and that is completely alright. If you think you’re lacking in this area and need some improvement, below are some courses you can enroll in to improve your listening skills.
Coursera is offering this course to teach you how to effectively communicate at your workplace. It is taught by award-winning Wharton professor and best-selling author Maurice Schweitzer. In this course, you will learn strategies to engage in active listening, learn how to apologize, develop trust, and ask questions.
In this course on Lyna.com, career expert Dorie Clark helps uncover why it’s hard to listen well and how to develop the mindset of a good listener. In the course, she provides listening strategies that will help you avoid interrupting people while they are talking to you. She also teaches ways to let others know that they are being heard, and ensure that you are being heard as well.
Some of the topics include challenges in listening, identifying signs of poor listening, and meaningful listening strategies.
In this course listed on LinkedIn, Nigel Cumberland, a leadership development expert, prolific author, and an executive coach, covers the importance of feedback, developing effective listening and communication skills, and establishing relationships with mentors.
This course is one of the Dale Carnegie courses. It includes topics on how to overcome the barriers to listening, levels of listening, listening principles, and positive and negative body language.
This class by Udemy teaches practical, conversational, and information-packed tips on active listening. In this course, you will learn about improving team dynamics, workplace efficiency, instilling confidence in yourself, your listening and speaking style.
Conclusion: Give Listening Your Full Attention
Attentive listening is a challenging art that is often neglected. It is a demanding skill and can at times be more difficult than speaking. The art of being a good listener requires patience, persistence, focus, and a genuine desire to communicate with others.
Various filters like internal biases, judgments, distractions, can affect our listening abilities. Overcoming these filters is important to establish yourself as a present and active listener in today’s world.