How to Become a Better Listener

Improve your listening skills to promote closer connections.


Happiness, Love

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There is so much noise in the world, so many words are being directed at you and at such a dizzying rate. When someone is attempting to communicate with you, it is crucial to slow yourself down and tune in so that you can truly listen to what they are saying. When you learn how to listen with empathy and an open mind you will be able to foster a deeper connection with the people in your life. According to The New York Times there are many ways for you to learn what is needed to improve your listening skills. 

How to be fully present
In order for the person speaking to you to feel that he or she is being heard, you as the listener need to make a concerted effort to be present in the moment. You must turn your focus and attention to the speaker and get rid of all potential distractions, The New York Times reports. This includes digital distractions! Your phone, your computer, your tablet - all of those devices need to be safely tucked away somewhere for the duration of the conversation. 

It is important to allow the speaker to finish their thoughts, so allow them the courtesy to speak without interrupting and wait until they are done before you respond. 

“When you have a conversation with somebody, you’re not going to get the nuances of the conversation if you’re doing too many things,” Michael Mathieu, C.E.O. of BeAlive Media, told The New York Times. “If somebody picks up the phone, stop your email, stop what you’re doing, listen and have that conversation with the person and then move on. I try to be present so I can enjoy the richness and quality of interactions with people. Most people can’t multitask without losing something in each of those tasks.”

Listen with an open mind
To receive the messages of the speaker you need to approach the conversation with an open mind and refrain from judgment or from allowing any opinions or ideas you may have previously had about the person speaking to impact what he or she is trying to convey to you. You should ask as many questions as you need to get a fuller understanding of what is being said and to understand the context and worldview of the speaker. 

Active listening
According to Fast Company, resisting the urge to respond immediately and learning how to master silence is a key contributing factor to successful communication. In the workplace this is especially important. Companies are encouraging employees to incorporate active listening tactics, including allowing time in meetings for participants to share their thoughts or impressions and in certain situations limiting responses to just a few sentences for everyone in order to ensure that quieter workers will also have their say.  

Make use of body language
You might be saying all the right things, but sometimes your body language can reveal that you are not really listening fully to what is being said. Learning how to control your body language, by nodding your head or smiling during the conversation is crucial. 

“As a lawyer for many years before that, I was not known as a creative person,”  Lisa Gersh of Oxygen Media told The New York Times. “When you’re in a legal or business meeting, you don’t egg people on. You pretend like you don’t care. It’s almost like buying a house. You sit with your arms crossed and you pretend like you’re not excited. And it could be the greatest idea in the world, but you don’t want to show your hand. But a creative meeting is different,” she added. “If someone’s coming in with their creative idea, they’re baring their creative soul. And if you sit there with your arms crossed and you don’t say anything, they’re really not going to give it to you.”

If you really want to hear what people are saying to you, whether it is in the personal or professional arena, what you need to focus on is learning how to listen in a more active and present way. When you can silence your impulsive responses, ego and personal agenda you will find that the person speaking will feel much more comfortable and that the conversation will flow in a positive direction. 

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