How to become a better listener

Just because you are quiet and you let others finish the sentences and do the majority of talking, does not mean that you are a good listener. Or, just because you are good at talking and receiving what other says, does not mean you are a great listener either. How many times have you multitasked while being on a call with someone? How many times have you shuffled through papers or texted while talking?
Let's be honest. There has been quite a couple...

Listening is not a superpower you are born with. But it is a skill you can develop.

Listening might not be a superpower but it definitely is an art. It requires us to be present, patient, open-minded, and non-judgmental. It also requires us to be empathic and to fully understand the other person. Recently while surfing the internet we have discovered various research articles about listening and the insights by coaches. We combined it with our experiences and insight and prepare (hopefully) a clear overview How To Become A Better Listener 2 and a path that has to followed in order to master the art of listening. Plus we will mention small but important aspects that are often forgotten but have to be taken into account in order to better yourself in this matter.

First, let's clarify: what exactly makes listening hard?

It’s our intentions that often hide deep in our minds: 

1) an inability to be present 

2) the fear of making mistakes 

3) a desire for validation 

4) a lack of curiosity 

5) the urge to impress

"Communication would be vastly improved if everyone who wrote and spoke were content to be understood without needing to be admired.

Dee Hock

So, How to Master the Art of listening?

There are two key points to keep in mind in order to be a better listener: 

1) practice being present; 

2) establish a listening pattern for important conversations and do this repeatedly so it will become a reflex. How To Become A Better Listener 

3) There are various practices that can be implemented but the starting point should be our Mother Nature. 

Start with particularly observing things in nature. For instance, I like observing the fine details of this Money Tree in my living room. Take a flower, a leaf, the bark of a tree, a crawling ant. 

And just intensely observe it. 10 seconds? That’s great. 20 seconds? Even better!

Listening exercises

Everything in nature is stunningly intricate & beautiful, when we really observe.

Do this often enough and you will be able to immerse yourself for several minutes observing the most seemingly simple thing in nature, like the petal of a flower. And guess what. By doing that, you have also trained yourself to pay more attention to what someone is saying!

Listening, done well, is an act of empathy. You are trying to see the world through another person’s eyes, and to understand what they feel. That is not going to happen if you are judging the other person as they are talking. It will stifle the conversation, because you will be sending all sorts of subtle non – verbal signals that you have an opinion about what they are saying. If you go into the discussion with the goal of understanding their perspective, free of any judgment, people will open up to you, because they will feel they can trust you to respect what they are saying. Besides these practices various listening patterns can be used, you can create your own – make it your listening ecosystem! Here’s an example of a brief but effective listening pattern: before starting the conversation – tell yourself that you are open-minded. After the conversation starts don’t try to interpret anything beyond what is said – when you listen carefully, the interpretation just happens without the effort. Once they are done talking, take a few seconds or minutes to collect your thoughts. Get comfortable with the silence that ensues – that will take time until you get used to it but is normal to stay in silence in between the conversation. You can start your response by summarizing what you heard – that might be an ice breaker and a sign for your opponent showing that you were really listening to what’s been said. Focus on the most salient point you want to make. And when you’re done, ask “what do you think?” or similar – remember, your tone & the surrounding context matters. And then listen again.

3 points to keep in mind:

1. Listen to learn, not to be polite.

Often, whether realizing it or not, people listen to each other out of generosity, not out of curiosity. Listening is good, but the intent has to be curiosity, not generosity. True dialogue does not happen when we pretend to listen, and it certainly cannot happen if we are not listening at all

2. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.

If you feel sad when the person with whom you are talking expresses sadness, if you suddenly experience joy after a joyful story, or a sudden fear after fearful emotions are being portrayed – then your effectiveness as a listener is assured. People convey those feelings through their facial expressions and words you just have to feel what the speaker is feeling. Empathy is the heart and soul of good listening. This is not an easy thing to do. It takes energy and concentration. But it is a generous and helpful thing to do, and it facilitates communication like nothing else does.

3. Practice “Active Listening”

The art of listening isn’t simply about staying quiet 100% of the time, it is also about asking questions. The questions can be asked for clarification, or for further explanation so that you can fully understand what the speaker is telling you. For instance, questions like these can be helpful: “Are you saying that _______?”, “Did you mean that _______?.” Did I understand you correct when you said that _______?”

To summarise, the art of listening has two key components. One involves listening without distraction or judgment, purely for comprehension. The other involves creating systems and processes that not only make listening active but also elevate it on all fronts. In order To Become A Better Listener: 

1) practice being present; 

2) establish your own listening pattern, with intent, or research the one that works the best for you. As with many things in life that truly matter, this is simple, but not easy. Once you develop the skill of listening well, there is one thing that hopefully you will notice: 

Everything becomes easier. Arguments are easier to resolve. Decisions, easier to make. Relationships, easier to build. People, easier to influence. Peace of mind, easier to maintain. This can easily go into a set of healthy habits of which we already talked about here.



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