Learning how to be a better listener is an important skill to have, especially in a world where everyone is always talking. No one wants to be the one who listens attentively.
Those with the patience to listen only do so because they want to reply and not to understand the person speaking. But you can be a better person and listener by learning how to pay attention while someone is talking.
In this article, we will drop some tips that you can use to become an active and better listener.
10 Tips To Be A Better Listener
There are several tips on becoming a better listener to improve your interpersonal relationships. Read on to learn tips on how to be a better listener.
1. Maintain Eye Contact
If you want to know ways to be a better listener, you have to learn to maintain eye contact when listening. Not many people know this, but looking at the person who is talking helps you understand what they say better.
Sometimes when someone speaks, and you are scrolling on your phone, washing dishes in the kitchen, or folding clothes, you can hear what they are saying, but you will not understand the non-verbal clues.
This is because your brain is multitasking. And if there is one thing humans aren’t particularly great at, it is multitasking. Many people might think they are, but they are not great at it.
Your brain will prioritize one activity over the other and relegate the other to the subconscious. That is why we are advised against driving and answering phone calls because your attention is divided.
Your brain tends to snooze one activity to understand the other better. So, to understand and listen better, you must look at the person talking. When you focus on them, you get to understand them better.
2. Ask Questions
Another great way to learn how to be a better listener is by asking questions. Think back to those times in the classroom when your teacher encouraged you to ask questions.
Why do you think they always asked if you had questions? Because they know the critical role questions play in a conversation, especially for learning and understanding.
As someone interested in listening better, you have to learn how to ask questions. This is because asking questions shows that you are paying attention.
When you ask someone who is speaking a question, you also allow yourself to understand more of what the person is saying. Someone may be talking too fast, and you cannot understand the various angles of their story.
It could also be that some parts of the story are summarized in a confusing way. Asking for clarity is one way to learn more about the story. Listeners are encouraged to ask open-ended questions, not yes or no questions.
This is because open-ended questions give more clarity. This is not to say you should not ask your questions if they are yes or no questions. Instead, it encourages you to ask questions that dig deeper into the story and find its roots.
3. Show You Are Actively Listening Via Body Language
Do you want to learn how to be a better listener? Then you have to show that you are listening via your body language.
An article published on the University of Texas’ website about communication and listening stated that a large percentage of communication is nonverbal.
Did you know that someone can understand that you are listening properly when you nod your head while they talk instead of verbally saying you can hear them?
55 per cent of how information is passed is by body language, and only 38 per cent is passed through speech.
This goes to show you how important it is to use body language. Nodding is not the only body language that shows you are listening.
Your facial expression is also a body language that can show whether you are listening. For example, imagine you are telling someone a funny story, and they are not smiling or laughing.
First, you’d ask if they are paying attention or if something is bothering them. So, when someone is telling a funny story, smile. These body languages show even more than the words that you are listening.
4. Don’t Interrupt With Your Solutions
This is a mistake many people make when listening that should be corrected: trying to help with solutions immediately.
For example, if someone is telling you about their struggles in getting quality healthcare in treating his sickness, and you don’t wait for the person to finish their story before mentioning names of hospitals you know that can help them.
This often comes from a good place, but it is not the ideal thing to do if you want to know how to be a better listener. First, stop interrupting the speaker with your solutions. It makes it look like you are not taking in everything they say.
Instead, wait till they are done and ask for answers before you help. Another mistake people make when listening is interrupting with their own experience. This is a sign of bad listening habits. Do not compare the speaker’s experience with your own.
You can tell your own stories when they are done. But not while they are it. This shows you do not care about the speaker’s story but yours.
5. Give Well-Timed Feedback
Interrupting when someone is speaking is not a great idea; however, giving well-timed feedback is commendable, especially when the speaker asks for it.
For example, your friend tells you how she stood up to her line manager, who wanted to overwork and intimidate her. While she was telling you the story, you found out that the way she stood up for herself was not exactly great and might land her in trouble.
In addition, you found that she used insulting words that should not have been used in the workplace. If she pauses and asks you about your opinion, this is your opening to give feedback.
Your feedback should concentrate on what she did and not on criticizing her. So, instead of telling her you insulted your line manager, you can say your words were insulting and should not have been used at work.
That way, she knows you are not accusing or criticizing her.
6. Remember What You Were Told
If you want to know how to be a good listener to a friend, you must know how to make mental notes. You must learn to pick out essential parts of the conversation and remember them.
When you can barely remember the root of the conversation, that shows that the speaker has wasted their time and you were not paying attention. One way to ensure this does not happen is to be present during a conversation.
Clear your mind of anything that will prevent you from understanding what is being said. Recalling what you were told is a great skill you should get as someone who wants to be a better listener.
Put away your phone. Listening to a conversation and using your phone is multitasking. And when you do that, you may not remember what the speaker was saying.
7. Keep Secrets Safe
Humans have a lot of stories and secrets. People carry a lot of information in their heads and hearts that you do not know about because they are secrets. For example, they could be secret recipes that have kept a business afloat for years.
People often want to share the weight of their secrets with someone they can trust. An easy way to be able to keep this trust is listening intently and understanding when a discussion is supposed to be a secret.
If you want to be a good listener and you want people to see you as such, you have to be someone who can be trusted with secrets. Going about spilling the beans about people will not just ruin their reputation; it will also ruin yours.
So, when someone tells you something and asks you to keep it secret, oblige them and keep the story to yourself. That is how to be a better listener.
8. Easy On The Judgement
Sometimes, when our friends, acquaintances or neighbors tell us some stories, the next thing we do is start judging. We start counting their flaws, and this is a wrong approach.
Once you start judging a speaker when they are speaking, you stop actively listening as you have drawn up a conclusion already. Therefore, you have to approach conversations with an open and unbiased mind.
Look at the story from different points of view. One way to listen to someone without bias or judgement is to put yourself in the person’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Listening this way puts things into perspective and helps you listen better.
9. Show Empathy
To know how to be a better listener, you have to learn how to show empathy. Sometimes the stories we hear are full of sorrow and heartbreak. How you react when you listen to someone who shares a heartbreaking or sorrowful story with you is crucial.
It is not the time for you to apportion blame and point fingers. Instead, it is time for you to connect with the person emotionally. Your carriage and posture are essential when you are listening with empathy.
You cannot be smiling, be on your phone, or looking through the window and saying you are thoughtful. It can suggest to the speaker that you are distracted and not paying attention to what they are saying.
Certain gestures show you are empathetic. For example, you can hold and squeeze their hands while they are sharing their story. Also, you can pat their shoulder.
If you two are pretty close, you can hug them. These show that you empathize with them while listening.
10. Pay Attention To Body Language
One way to learn how to be a better listener is to pay attention to people’s body language when they speak. For example, observe how their face changed when they told you about their abuse.
Check how their face lit up at the mention of a particular name. Even without saying anything, they show how they feel about something or someone through body language.
Now, you wouldn’t have caught their facial expressions if your eyes were glued to your phone or doing something else while the story went on.
You would have missed the way they gestured when trying to describe an experience. This shows you how these tips work hand in hand to make you a better listener.
What Makes A Good Listener?
So, what makes a good listener? Below are some of the signs that show you are a good listener:
1. Paying Total Attention to the Speaker: A good listener will always be attentive to the speaker. A good listener tries to eliminate anything that can cause distractions when listening. For example, they will turn away from the TV, drop their phones and look at the speaker.
2. No Interruption: A good listener knows that interruption cuts the trail of thoughts. And so he keeps the solutions, ideas and suggestions inside till they are needed. This is one of the essential steps for how to be a better listener.
3. Good Timing: A good listener knows that time is a commodity and listening is vital. So, they make time to listen to whoever has something to say.
Knowing how to be a good listener is essential because you will find it hard to connect with people without it. So, if you are keen on forging meaningful ties with others, you have to master the skill of listening.
Listening is also essential in your career as that is what helps you learn the work, ask questions and excel in the office.
Even in your daily dealings with people, it enables you to process what people are saying even when they are not speaking with words.
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