One of the most important skills you can develop is to understand how to listen. It is, quite literally, the key to your success. Most people appear as if they are listening but, in reality, they are not. Most people are just waiting for an opportunity to talk again. Listening is the way to improve your relationships, be more productive and to better understand the world around you.
- The first step in being an effective listener is to understand what it means to be present for the other person. You are not lost in the regrets of the past or fretting about a future that never comes. Only right now ever comes. Make immediate eye contact and never interrupt when someone is speaking to you. The eye contact helps you to stay focused on the person and what they have to say. The tendency to interrupt signals someone who is just waiting to talk again. Being a helpful listener means knowing that it’s not about you.
- Smile when you are listening to someone. Even if they are upset and distressed about something, offering a smile can help calm and soothe. It signals to the talker that you are, indeed listening and, what’s more, you actually care about what they are saying to you.
- Avoid playing therapist. Don’t interject a similar experience into the conversation. That is the first step toward focusing the attention on you. Avoid giving advice whenever possible unless the person is actually asking for your thoughts on the matter. When it is time for you to talk, go over what they have just been saying so it gets clarified further and, perhaps, ask a poignant question or two. The key is to get them talking again.
- Shut off your cell phone. The cell phone is a huge distraction and addiction and is not helpful in any manner of listening experience. You can live without texting your BFF for fifteen minutes.
- Being known for your listening skills will bring added value to your life. People will tend to look at you as a thoughtful and caring individual. Practiced listening skills will make you more productive and effective in all areas of your life. True and deep listening will make your relationships stronger because only through listening will you begin to truly understand.