The Art of Listening
The ability and need to communicate touches every area of our lives. Everything we do in life requires communication with others. Much of communication theory focuses on how to speak to others and how to convey your message. But, communication is really a two-way process. It is an activity, not a one-time event. The listener's role is as central to the communication process as the speaker's role.
Improving Listening Skills:
Exercise active listening skills. Try asking more questions. If you
need clarification ask the speaker to say more, give an example or to
explain further. Give feedback or paraphrase what you've heard. Try making eye
contact with the speaker. Become aware of your personal filters and triggers. Each of us is a
product of our upbringing, culture, life experiences and anything and
everything that makes us unique as human beings. Our uniqueness can sometimes be
an obstacle to being an effective listener. As you listen, try to remain
open to what you are hearing and withhold evaluation or judgment.
Observe your own and other people's listening habits. Ask yourself what
it feels like when someone really listens to you and when they don't.
Create a checklist of habits you want to change. Also, acknowledge yourself for
listening habits you have that do work for you. Listen without formulating a response to the speaker. As listeners we
think about 500 words per minute while the normal speaking rate is about 125
to 150 words per minute. That creates a lot of room for communication to
break down or for your mind to wander! Try to hear everything that is being
said, listen to the entire message and then respond.
Listen with empathy. Empathy is an imaginative process. Empathy is
emptying the mind and listening with the whole being. Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. True empathy is the
ability to fully understand and accept another, complete with all their
feelings, thoughts and opinions. Become aware of the speaker's non-verbal communication. One estimate
has it that 75% of all communication is non-verbal. Beyond the words is a host
of clues as to what the speaker is communicating.
Create an environment for the listening to occur. Remove distractions.
And, if all else fails just remember these words by Epictetus, an
ancient Greek philosopher and you are guaranteed to improve your listening
skills: "Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much
as we speak."