“Nature has given to men one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus, Greek Philosopher
How well we listen determines the quality of our connections with others whether at home or work. Yet, most of us did not master excellent communication skills in our family of origin. In fact, most of us haven’t taken any formal training in the art of communication. And, as far as communication goes, listening is definitely the key. Luckily, anyone can learn these skills. Excellence is developed with practice. The following steps will help you sharpen your listening skills.
1)Maintain good eye contact with the person you are talking to. Eye contact is imperative in conversation, and makes it possible for you to sense the underlying emotions as well as to assess facial expression and body language. Good eye contact says you are listening and are interested in the person and the conversation.
2)Empty your head of your own agenda, and listen to what the speaker is saying. This is especially difficult if you disagree with what the speaker is saying or have another opinion. Remember, you will have your turn to speak. Overcome the temptation to jump in with your own opinion until you have truly explored what the other person has to say. (This is particularly hard if you happen to be talking with your teenager!)
3)Check out what you have heard by stating what you thought you heard back to the person you are speaking to. Say something like, “What I hear you saying is…” “Is that right?”
If the person you are talking to agrees that you heard accurately, great! If they say, “No, what I said was…” – believe them. Don’t argue or come back with, “That is too what you said.” It is amazing how many times individuals I am working with in communication skills will argue with their partner about what the partner said or meant! We all have a tendency to distort somewhat based on our own experiences. That is why reflecting back what we thought we heard is important.
4)Ask open-ended questions about the content or information being shared. Open-ended questions cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”. They invite the speaker to give you more information and to expand on what they are saying. Open-ended questions often start with “how” or “what”, or “tell me more…”
5)Try to imagine how the person you are talking to feels about what they are talking about. This is a skill called “empathy” and is essential for close, meaningful conversation. Share back your sense of how the information is impacting them, such as, “That must make you happy.” Or, “It must be hard for you when that happens.” Connecting on an emotional level shows you are listening and truly understand them.
If you practice these five steps faithfullyFeature Articles, you will be amazed at how much better your relationships will become both at home and at work