Much has been written about effective speaking, but what about effective listening? According to Epictetus, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
We plan what we are going to say, “I’m going to give her what-for,” and so on. But do we plan for how we are going to listen? How often do we let someone talk until the end of what he or she has to say without interjecting our ideas? And when we listen, do we really hear or are we quick to jump in with our similar-but-even-more-extraordinary tale or advice?
Six positive listening practices
Recently I had a bad day. Really bad. The oasis in the middle of this day, however, was connecting with a great listener. She knows what she’s doing when it comes to listening and I’ve determined to make her good habits my own in 2013. Here are positive listening practices that I’ve identified:
- Listen to what the person is saying. Sometimes the person’s words are only half of the story. Pay attention to body language and tone.
- Try to dispense with listening filters. Too often we hear only what we want to hear or what our preconceived ideas predict we will hear. People change. Give them a chance to.
- Long pauses are OK. It’s OK to think, to reflect, to not have any response other than, “I hear what you’re saying,” or to ask for points of clarification.
- Give the person your undivided attention. We think we’re smart enough to multi-task and do a great job at it all, but we’re not. If you’re checking your phone, looking over the person’s shoulder or worse – typing, then you are not listening.
- This may be a painful process because we’re not used to it. Ease the pain with a smile that sends a message of trust and sincerity. When we’re seen as open and approachable, communication comes easier. And remember, you can hear smiles over the phone.
- Don’t interrupt. Park that idea. If it’s important enough, your idea will come back to you when the person is finished speaking. When you have a full parking lot, blog about your ideas – or find a great listener!
Face-to-face, one-to-one communication is the most effective way to build relationships
Ease your guilt-ridden, time-saving conscience by keeping the end in mind. We spend huge amounts of time on social media and email to build relationships. Studies show that face-to-face, one-to-one communication is still the most effective way to build those relationships. Think of your ears as the ultimate “inbox.”
How has effective listening been valuable to you? What tips would you add?