Do you want to master the art of listening? If you tend to zone out when someone’s talking, or you notice that people don’t often choose you as a confidant, it’s time to start practicing this skill. Taking an active, engagedapproach to listening will improve your relationships and enrich your experience of the world. If you want to learn how to listen with undivided attention and respond in a way that keeps people talking, keep reading.
1- Remove distractions.
The first thing you should do when someone starts talking is to put away anything that might distract you from his or her words. Turn off the television, close your laptop and put down anything else you are reading or doing. It’s very difficult to hear and understand what someone is saying when you are surrounded by other sounds or activities vying for your attention.
Whether the conversation you are having is over the phone or in person, it can help to move to a room that is free from distractions. Go to a place where you won’t be interrupted by other people.
Many people find it easier to have deep conversations outdoors, where there are fewer distracting screens and gadgets. Try going for a walk in the park or in your neighborhood.
2- Stay focused.
When the other person speaks, focus on what they are saying. Don’t let your mind jump ahead to what you think you should say in reply. Watch the person’s face, eyes and body.What is the other person really trying to say?
Part of staying focused and really listening involves interpreting a person’s silences and noticing his or her body language, too. These nonverbal ways of communicating are just as important as words.
3- Be unselfconscious.
Many find it hard to concentrate during conversations because they feel self conscious about how they appear to the other person. It may help to know that if someone is speaking their mind to you, it isn’t likely that they’re judging you at the same time. The speaker is grateful that you’re lending a listening ear.
Part of being a good listener is having the ability to stop thinking about yourself during the conversation. If you’re busy thinking about your own insecurities or needs, you aren’t paying attention to what the other person is saying.
4- Be empathetic.
Another key to listening is being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If someone is confiding in you about his or her troubles, step outside yourself and imagine what it’s like to be him or her. True communication happens when people understand each other. Find common ground with the person who is speaking and do your best to see things from his or her point of view.
5- Become a better hearer.
You’re probably heard it said that there’s a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is a the physical act of sensing sounds, while listening is the ability to interpret those sounds as a way to understand the world and other people.
The nuances in what you hear should inform the conclusions you make as a listener. For example, a person’s tone of voice can indicate whether he is she is joyful, depressed, angry or scared. Ultimately, honing your sense of hearing will make you a better listener.
Work on your sense of hearing by paying more attention to sounds. When was the last time you closed your eyes and let your sense of hearing take the wheel? Stop once in a while and just listen to your surroundings so you can better appreciate the knowledge that can be gained by hearing.
Listen to music more carefully. We are so used to having music in the background now that we don’t often make it the sole focus. Close your eyes and really listen to an entire song or album. Try to pick out individual sounds. If many elements are present, such as in symphonic music, try listening to a single instrument as it travels through the flow of the entire orchestra.
— with Vilma D. López.