Lend Me an Ear: The Art of Listening
Communication is defined as the exchange of information between individuals, media, or groups. But, in reality, being a good communicator does not entail merely having the skill to choose the right words and speak eloquently. Rather, a good communicator is someone who knows how to listen and understand better rather than making himself and herself heard. Listening is the key to effective communication. If you don’t know how to listen, then it’s not likely that there would be a free and willing exchange of ideas.
Be Present. When you are listening to a friend’s sentiments or even participate in a group discussion, be really present. Focus your attention on listening and not on daydreaming about other things. You know how it looks. Your body is there, and it appears you’re hanging on to the speaker’s every word; but you’re really thinking about how your weekend camping might go. You might be present physically, but your mind is wandering elsewhere.
Instead of formulating ideas, questions and things to say next, try to just listen first then concentrate on what you need to say after your friend has finished venting out her feelings. People can usually sense if they’re getting half-hearted attention and it doesn’t feel good. In a meeting, keeping focused is very important, as you might miss a key discussion point just because you can’t stop your mind from drifting.
Know When to Shut up. Although it might be tempting to give advice right away or butt in during a meeting, zip your mouth first and wait until your friend asks for your opinion, or when the moderator starts accepting suggestions and comments. Usually, your friend already knows her way out but just wants someone to listen to her. So, please, don’t give unsolicited advice unless it’s already a matter of life and death. You become a more effective listener when you know when to keep quiet and when to speak up.
Though you find it hard to look a person in the eye, try to do so. It will show that you really are listening. Whether you’re the speaker or the listener, you must try to make an eye contact, even briefly, just to make sure everyone’s still with you and understanding what you are saying. Arch Lustberg Communications head Arch Lustberg stressed that while maintaining an eye contact is important, it shouldn’t be strictly eye-to-eye as it may be intimidating to the person who is talking or listening.
Refrain from Criticizing. Did you ever notice how well you can clearly hear what someone is saying when you finally stop formulating criticisms in your head? So, when in a meeting, tune out from the speaker’s mannerisms or the way he talks, and focus on what he’s really saying and not on his delivery.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed. Once your friend has finished airing out her thoughts and asks for your opinion, grab the opportunity to let her know how you feel about her situation. Be wary about getting too far with sharing and delving into your own life story, particularly about how you overcame the same situation. Keep the focus on her. You can reference a particular experience you had but be sure you bring back the spotlight to your fried, or else you might appear condescending.