Listening can help us build and strengthen relationships, solve problems, build understanding, resolve conflicts, reduce errors and improve accuracy. The following are seven ways to enhance the art of listening:
1. Give your full attention – Whatever you do, do it in totality. When you listen, then simply listen. Do not check your phone, or run mental errands, or gaze out of the window, or get lost in your thoughts.
2. Avoid interrupting the speaker – Sometimes we think that we know what the other is about to say and rush to complete their sentences. Sometimes the habit to interrupt is so ingrained, that we don’t even notice we are doing it. Interrupting the speaker is disrespectful.
3. Refrain from immediate reaction/judgment – Even if you disagree with everything that the speaker says, try to begin your conversation with something you can agree with.
4. Empathize – While we can never truly understand what the other is feeling, we can certainly imagine ourselves in their situation. Empathy is the essence of good listening. To experience empathy, you have to put yourself in the other person’s place and allow yourself to feel what it is like to be them at that moment.
5. Desist from offering unsolicited advice – When listening to someone talk about a problem, refrain from suggesting solutions unless asked.
6. Ask questions only to ensure understanding – Don’t ask questions to impress or divert the topic. Ensure your questions pertain to the topic of discussion.
7. Give feedback – An ideal conversation includes three primary components, constructive questions, unmistakable clarity on the main points, and a sharing of related stories that confirm mutual understanding. This is especially critical when dealing with future obligations or the way forward.
Sometimes silence is also an expression of understanding. Hence use your discretion to deliver the needed response to convey understanding.