Have you ever felt that someone was not listening to you, but just waiting for their chance to speak?
A friend once said to me, "I don't think you're really hearing what I am saying!" I was shocked because I thought I was a good listener. I would pick up on what they were talking about and then relate it to my own experience. But that's not really listening.
Here's what I've learned on my journey to becoming a better listener.
1. Attention Matters
Give your conversation partner your complete focus. If there is a lot of noise around you, find somewhere quiet to talk. Put your phone away. Make eye contact if you're comfortable doing so.
2. Be Aware of Body Language (Yours and Theirs)
Turn to face your listener and lean slightly forward if you can. This shows you're actively listening.
You don't have to copy their body language exactly, but do pay attention to non-verbal cuesthat show how they're feeling.
3. Use Mirroring to Clarify What The Other Person Is Saying
"What do you mean?" or "Can you explain that, please?" can sound overly direct. Instead, try using a mirroring technique from former FBI negotiator Chris Voss.
Simply repeat the last few words your conversation partner said. This builds rapport and shows you want to understand them.
4. Listen Naively and Actively
"To learn through listening, practice it naively and actively. Naively means that you listen openly, ready to learn something, as opposed to listening defensively, ready to rebut. Listening actively means you acknowledge what you heard and act accordingly.”
— Betsy Sanders, former Senior Vice President and General Manager, Nordstrom
When someone has finished talking, pause and think before you reply. Then carefully paraphrase what they have said to show you have understood before offering advice or asking an open-ended question.
Check out the video below for an example of paraphrasing:
Your conversation partner says, "No matter what I do, my co-workers criticize me all the time." How should you respond? Select all that apply:
Putting It All Together
By paying full attention to the speaker, making eye contact, letting the other person finish their sentence, and mirroring or paraphrasing, I greatly improved my ability to really listen to people.
Now I'm someone others seek out for advice, as they know I'll give them time and space to speak before I reply. This has improved the quality of my relationships immeasurably and can for you too!
There are many benefits to being a good listener To make sure you are one, start doing the following today: