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Improve your Listening in 7 steps

January 21, 2016 5:29 pm

When was the last time you got caught in an argument or conflict?

How much of the argument did you really hear?

Or were you just waiting your turn to put your argument across? 

Listening, and I mean really listening is a skill. Many of us listen but never really hear what the other person is telling us. Not really hearing someone can lead to conflict, which, if left, can become entrenched and difficult to resolve.

The skill of listening, (or active listening as it’s known) can be a crucial tool for anyone to master. It can be vital if you are a manager or business owner.

To help you get to grips with really listening here are my 7 steps you can begin to use today and see what a difference they make.

1. Keep distractions to a minimum

If you’re having a meeting, go somewhere quiet. You don’t want to be distracted by phones, emails or other people. If there are a number of people in the meeting make sure everyone gets their turn and the person talking isn’t interrupted. You may want to consider asking those in the group to leave their phones at their desks or at the least, turn them to silent to avoid distractions from pinging emails and text messages.

2. Teach yourself to focus

During any conversation your internal monologue will want to weigh in. It’s tricky to turn off your own voice, however, if you really want to listen you’ll need to keep checks on your inner voice. This part of active listening does require practice as there will always be things to distract you.

3. Good eye contact

Using good eye contact shows the other person they have your attention and you’re ready to listen. Don’t stare, that’s off putting, but maintain eye contact rather than looking everywhere else. Be aware some people find eye contact off putting and, if it’s not something you usually do, may initially be uncomfortable for you both.

4. Don’t interrupt

It can be very easy to jump into the conversation with your own comments and speak over the person talking. Don’t do it., however strong the urge. You’ll tell the other person you’re not really listening and just want your own say. By all means use encouraging comments or noises to allow the other person to continue to share their thoughts. Encouraging comments or noises will help you to get the whole story from the other person.

If in a group, make sure whoever is talking gets uninterrupted time. This may be the first time they’ve been able to talk about what is really bothering them and interruptions can stymie this. Ego’s are fragile things and if someone feels their’s is being bruised they will want to immediately argue back .You’ll need to keep this under control and keep a respectful environment.

5. Don’t steer the conversation

The point of the conversation is to allow the other person to tell you what is on their mind. You want to let the conversation flow and let the person reach the end of their piece in their own time. If you’re aware of the conflict or issue is can be easy to allow yourself to try and steer the conversation to get information you think is necessary. In doing so you may miss something important you weren’t aware of previously.

You may want to double check you’ve understood what you’re being told. You can do this by paraphrasing back the information and asking for confirmation you’ve got it right.

6. Allow the silence

Some people need time to put their thoughts in order. Most people aren’t very good at saying how they really feel and need time to gather themselves. Be empathetic, reflect back to them, for example you may say “I can see you’re upset” or “I can see how frustrated this situation has made you”. This will encourage the other person to keep sharing.

7. Check your response

It’s possible you are not being asked for a solution. Perhaps the person (or people) simply want a sounding board. If that’s the case then you won’t need to give a response. Should a response be needed, give yourself enough time to carefully construct it. If you’ve been paraphrasing you’ll have a good understanding of the issues and point of the conversation. Be careful not to judge in your response and always be respectful, regardless of what you actually think.

And don’t forget your body language! 

If you’re applying these techniques, you need to get your body language right. To properly engage the other person you should have open, positive and encouraging body language. That means:

  • relaxing your shoulders
  • sitting toward the person talking
  • smiling and nodding appropriately

Be aware of your arms crossing or turning away from the person speaking. You may send them the message you’re bored or not interested.

Call me today on 07502907157 to discuss how I can help you resolve conflicts.