Becoming a better listener is one of the biggest capabilities everyone should develop in business and life.
The simple act of being present and listening hard is a powerful experience for the person being listened to.
As a business coach, learning how to be a better listener is key to my success, and that of my clients.
The simple act of asking questions and then sitting back and listening hard to their answers is a beautiful experience.
In fact, developing effective listening skills, and becoming a better listener, is an essential capability to develop whether at work or at home.
People want to be heard.
They want to have the experience of being listened to, not talked at. To have a safe space where the conversation is all about them.
It is by learning how to be a better listener that we connect, understand, collaborate and empathise with other people.
In this article I will share some essential listening skills and outline 8 tips will show you how to be a better listener.
Qualities of a good listener
Think back to the last few conversations you had. Were you listened to or were you interrupted or had the conversation shifted back to the other person?
Many people are focused on themselves and their opinion during conversations. They try at every opportunity to shift the conversation back to themselves.
Many do this unconsciously, because so much of their time is spent not listening, but trying to be heard.
Trying to cut through the noise of modern business and life.
The qualities of a good listener include paying attention to the other person when they speak, keeping eye contact, showing interest through emotional responses and showing they understand by repeating back what the other person said.
Is listening a skill a quality?
Listening is an essential skill that should be developed by everyone. It is a quality and capability that can be developed through active listening.
The compliment of being a good listener is something we should all strive for.
Developing listening skills can help you discover more about the people that are important to you.
Being a good listener helps you unlock insights about people that no-one else knows.
You can discover who that person is, what’s important to them, what direction they want their life to go and why they do what they do and think the way they think.
If you want to become a better listener and develop listening skills the process is simple.
Ask really good questions. Listen deeply. Ask more questions. Rinse and repeat.
Ways to become a better listener
Here are some simple ways to become a better listener:
Being fully present
The person is fully present in the conversation and is listening hard. They are not distracted and are fully focused on you.
Making eye contact
The person keeps eye contact during the conversation and is fully focused on the conversation.
They are not looking round the room, checking the time or checking their phone.
There is an emotional connection
The person is actually listening to your answers and showing interest and engaging in the responses by nodding their heads or showing other signs of encouragement.
They repeat back
The person shows they are fully engaged in the conversation by repeating back important information to show they understood and captured the speaker’s language.
Tips on how to be a good listener
“No man ever listened himself out of a job.” – Calvin Coolidge
If you want to become a better listener and develop effective listening skills use these 8 tips.
The biggest tip I can give you, however is to just start listening to the people that matter most and make listening a habit you want to practice every day.
1. Be curious
If you want to be a good listener, you have to be intensely curious about the other person.
When you are curious you are keen to ask questions, to sit and listen and to use that person’s answers to ask further questions that go deeper.
2. Keep quiet
Many people find it very difficult to simply stay silent during a conversation.
If you want to learn how to be a good listener, the key is to hold the space and stay silent after you ask a question.
When you don’t give someone the time to think about their response you aren’t being a good listener.
Just ask a question and be quiet.
Let the other person really think and talk and hold the space between the two of you.
Only then offer a further question when the time is right.
3. Be genuinely interested
To be an effective listener you have to be genuinely interested in the other person and what they have to say.
This means giving full focus and attention to that person and listening hard to what they have to say.
When you are interested in what the other person has to say, and you give the right encouragement, the person will open up more.
Creating a safe space for someone to speak and be really heard is one of the most powerful things you can do for someone else,
4. Understand it’s not about you
To be a better listener you have to shift your mindset.
The conversation is not about you.
It is 100% about the other person and what’s on their mind.
You are there to listen and ask great questions.
If you try to shift the conversation to being about you, then the power of simply listening is lost.
Hold the space for the other person and simply listen.
5. Ask great questions
People become better listeners by asking great questions.
The best questions are open ended.
They are questions that are entirely focused on the other person and not trying to lead them somewhere.
Great questions often start with what or why or how.
Specific questions that get the other person to really think and open up their imagination can be very powerful.
6. Use their language
When you are actively listening to someone, the person feels truly heard when you ask questions using that person’s language.
Mirroring what the person has said in the form of a further question shows you have been listening hard.
When I coach a client I take notes of their answers and will often ask a clarifying question that may summarize what they said to capture their exact language.
During a conversation if you ask a question that has nothing to do with what the other person has said the person may shut down because they will think you haven’t been listening.
This takes practice but comes with actively listening on a daily basis.
7. Make the person feel understood
As an effective listener it’s important to think clearly before you ask a question.
Listening is about engaging with what the other person is saying or wants to say.
Questions should be open without any pressure.
They should allow the other person to fully express themselves and to talk about what is most important to them.
Being an active listener and making the person feel understood is about listening hard, responding in the right way through body language and encouragement.
When the person talking feel understood they will open up more.
If they feel understood they will often get insights into their thinking they didn’t realise until they had a powerful conversation.
This can be transformational.
8. Don’t offer solutions, just listen hard
It’s very easy to listen to someone talk about a problem and challenge and want to offer solutions.
This boost the ego of the listener because they see themselves as helping.
But, it is all about understanding the context of the conversation.
If the other person specifically asks for solutions that’s fine.
What is more powerful though is if you start with making the conversation purely about the other person.
To be a better listener, simply listen, ask searching questions and let the other person come to a solution themselves.
If you want to learn how to become a better listener, you need to develop better listening skills.
This starts by moving your energy and focus away from yourself and onto another person.
Which takes awareness, motivation and practice.
Being a good listener is always about the other person.
The more you make the decision to listen hard to another person and ask great questions, your life will transform.
You will become a crucial person in that person’s life.
People are isolated and not truly listened to on a day to day basis.
Listen more and you will discover a capability you might not have known you had.
Once you discover it, you will want to spend more and more time being a good listener.
Over to you.
Who listens to you?
What’s the best tip you will use to start being a better listener?
This article originally appeared on the Lucemi Consulting blog.
About the Author
Mark Pettit is a small business coach to business owners who want to simplify their time, energy and focus so they can multiply their freedom, impact and results. Find out more by visiting the website.
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