How to Become a Really Good Listener
Did you know that an average adult spends almost 70% of their time by engaging in any form of communication, out of which more than 45% of their time goes into listening, 30% in speaking, and 16% in reading and only about 9% in writing? For an entrepreneur and business man, becoming a really good listener is critical because it helps one understand the true essence of key messages delivered that may otherwise be misunderstood or not communicated clearly.
But that is not all; we often underestimate the power of good listening skills because we are always in a hurry to speak instead of trying to comprehend what is being communicated to us and preparing what we’re going to say next. If you are an antrepreneur or a career oriented individual, developing good listening skills will take you far as long as the career ladder is concerned.
In this article, we explore 1) an introduction to good listening, 2) different ways for becoming a good listener, 3) how good listening skills help entrepreneurs to achieve their goals, and 4) entrepreneurial quotes to inspire you to become a very good listener.
INTRODUCTION TO GOOD LISTENING
Ideally, listening can be classified into three different basic modes, namely attentive, combative and reflective. When you pay attention to what the other person is saying, it called attentive listening. While, on the other hand, combative listening refers to when two individuals speak turn by turn to support their stance. Lastly, the reflective mode comes into play when we take an active part in keeping up with the conversation.
While you may not necessarily be a good speaker, you can develop good listening skills by using different techniques. Here are some reasons why good speakers tend to fair well in most aspects of life as compared to good speakers.
- The main goal of listening to someone attentively is to ‘put yourself in the other person’s shoes’ so that you ‘understand’ their viewpoint better.
- A good leader is a good listener first, a good speaker later. When a leader listens, he / she begins to comprehend what the problem is before proposing a solution for it. That is why a good leader will always get things done whereas good speaking skills will help him communicate better with his followers.
- Good listeners tend to do well when it comes to developing key social relationships like meeting new people, attacting partnerships, socializing with colleagues, but also in private life like marriage, dating, etc.
- A person with good listening skills is more likely to empathize with their partner and colleagues too, as compared to someone who is a shallow listener.
- Good listeners make good mentors because they are often perceived as good sounding boards for those who want to unload their experiences, thoughts, and frustrations to someone who is willing to listen.
- A person with fully developed listening skills is also equipped with good problem-solving skills because they get to the core of the problem before coming up with a solution.
- Good listening skills and decision-making skills go hand in hand. Being a good listener helps you analyze the situation in the best way possible because you focus properly on what is being said. This helps in developing strategies effectively and making the right decisions and plans accordingly.
- When you listen to what the other person is saying attentively, it shows that you respect them and their opinion for which they automatically begin to respect you. If you are in a managerial position, listening to the problems of your employees and subordinates with attention will inspire them to work harder for they will feel valued and respected.
- There are fewer chances of miscommunication when you listen to everything with attention before communicating the message to others.
- Sometimes listening is not taken in the business world. A website may provide you with sound information on various aspects of the organization. When you read everything that is being posted on Google and social media about your company, you are ‘listening in’ which in turn helps you devise the right strategies and make proper plans.
DIFFERENT WAYS FOR BECOMING A GOOD LISTENER
Not many of us are good listeners because it requires developing good listening skills through dedication and practice. However, developing good listening skills is not exactly rocket science and they are various techniques through which you can become a really good listener.
Here are some of the great ways you can improve your listening skills and achieve the goal of becoming a really good listener over time.
1. Focus On the Person Who Speaks and Look In the Eyes
One of the most important factors that play a major role in becoming a good listener is creating and maintaining eye contact with the person who is speaking. When you look into the speaker’s eye from time to time, it shows that you are actually interested in the conversation and actively listening to what is being said.
On the other hand, lack of eye contact during a conversation is often translated as carelessness and often considered disrespectful to the person speaking to you. The next time around, try to create eye contact with the speaker when you engage in a conversation, and you will automatically see a difference.
The next main thing that you must consider is focusing on what the speaker is trying to communicate instead of letting your mind wander off or preparing what to say next. When you keep on thinking of what you are going to say when your turn comes, you will miss out on the key points referred by the speaker. Thus, your argument will not have an impact or be as effective as it could have been had you listened to the speaker attentively.
2. Limit All Distractions
With so many distractions around us, truly listening to another person is more like a challenge. To become a good listener, try getting rid of all distractions that may interrupt the conversation between you and the other person. For instance, do not fidget unnecessarily with your phone, stop browsing social media websites on your laptop, avoid watching the television and do not take any call in the middle of the conversation.
Doing so will prevent the other person from going off-track and losing their chain of thought which will help you understand what is being communicated to you fully. Limiting all distraction during a conversation not only shows that you care and value the opinion of the other speaker but also shows that you practice good social skills.
3. Be Patient and Let Your Partner Speak
Nothing is more annoying than someone speaking out of turn in the middle of a conversation. It distracts the speaker and leads them off-track. Also, you would not want the same to be done to you when it is your time to speak which is why it is important for you to remain calm and be patient enough for the other person to finish speaking before you begin to explain your stance.
If your partner or colleague wants to ‘talk’, you must always show that you are willing to listen. When you are in the middle of a conversation with either your loved one or a colleague, never underestimate the importance of showing them that you acknowledge their feelings. By doing this, you will see a vast improvement in the communication especially when you acknowledge the reality of negative feeling someone may have.
Always make sure you articulate the other person’s point of view instead of denying feelings like anger, reluctance, fear, or irritation.
4. Be Curious and Show Non-verbally That You Are Listening
Do not you just hate it when someone gives you a blank stare while you are trying to set up a conversation with them? They may be listening to you, but you will automatically feel de-motivated to talk because suddenly you will begin to feel as if no one cares about what you have to say.
The best thing to do to show that you are engaged in the conversation is to give some non-verbal cues. For instance, just nodding your head in agreement or disagreement will signal that you are hearing what is being said. Creating and maintaining eye contact as discussed above will also show you are reasonably interested in listening to what is being said.
5. Never Assume Anything
You must never assume things on your own when the other person is speaking. Keep any personal prejudice you may have towards them at bay and do not let it interfere your thoughts when listening to the other person. If you have any questions that you may want the speaker to address, always ask them politely.
Not only will this give you a clear-cut picture of the situation but it will also erase any negative thoughts that you may have had before if you would have made some assumptions on your own.
6. Look At the Subtext
Now, you may wonder how you can show the other person that they have your attention. All you have to do is to say words like ‘I understand’, ‘I agree’ or simply ‘Yes’. This will keep the conversation going on without the other person fearing that you are getting bored by them and their opinion.
Another great way to show someone that you have fully understood what has been said is to paraphrase what they said. This will reassure them that what they have said has made an impact on you and that you understand what they want to communicate. During the conversation, you can encourage the speaker simply by making ‘listening sounds’ as a cue to elaborate on what they are trying to say.
7. Ask Questions and Provide Feedback
To make sure that your understanding of the matter is crystal clear, provide feedback to the other person by telling them exactly how you feel about their viewpoint. This seems difficult because putting feelings into words is not always easy. But once you master the art of emotional labeling, you will see how it makes a major difference in the quality of the conversations with your colleagues, loved ones or bosses. You must always remember to frame your negative viewpoint in a way that it does not hurt the feelings of the other person, offend them, or make them feel disrespected. Play it cool, always!
Asking questions is another way to understand fully what you just heard. Now there are four different types of questions that you can ask to keep the conversation flowing and to understand things better.
- You can ask leading questions that will give you a more detailed insight on the speaker’s stance like ‘Would you like to talk in detail about this?’
- Open-ended questions focusing on who, what, how, when and where.
- You can prompt specific information from the reader by asking close-ended questions leading with ‘Is’, ‘Are’, ‘Do’, ‘Would’ , ‘Could’, ’Can’, etc.
- Reflective questions, on the other hand, help you understand more about what was said by the speaker.
HOW GOOD LISTENING SKILLS HELP ENTREPRENEURS ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS
For entrepreneurs, if listening is not really a competitive advantage, it is definitely a desirable strength that may help your organization reach greater heights. Now you may be wondering what it takes to be a good listener in the corporate world. Here are some ways good listening skills actually help entrepreneurs achieve their goals.
- Entrepreneurs with good listening skills are always at an advantage because they listen attentively to customers’ feedback. Listening to what the customers say – both negative and positive comments help entrepreneurs to satisfy the customers, which is important for any business. Knowing what your customer needs and wants will help you in developing a better product or an improved service.
- Good listeners are more likely to build good rapport with their suppliers, buyers and employees because they always try to understand the other person’s point-of-view before coming up with effective strategies to counter the problem at hand.
- Entrepreneurs understand how important teamwork is when it comes to achieving goals whether it is at a departmental or a managerial level. Listening to the concerns of others ensures understanding, improves problem-solving, and reinforces work relationships.
ENTREPRENEURIAL QUOTES TO INSPIRE YOU TO BECOME A VERY GOOD LISTENER
Good listening skills will help you in every sphere of life, always. Here are some quotes by some of the biggest personalities in history that will reinforce the importance of developing good listening skills for achieving success in everything you do.
“If you want to stand out as a leader, a good place to begin is by listening,” Richard Branson said. The best teams and bosses pay attention and value the other’s perspective. “Great listeners are often terrific at uncovering and putting in place strategies and plans that have a big impact,” Branson continued. “Being able to provide encouragement to aspiring business leaders has been invaluable because those conversations spark his ideas, too”, he said.
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said” – Peter Drucker
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” – Doug Larson
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” – Karl A. Menninger
Now that you know how becoming a good listener helps you in every walk of life, it is important for you to develop good listening skills that will take you far in the corporate world as well as in your personal life.
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