Effective communication is one of the keys to success in life, and when you’re good at it, people notice. When you mention improving communication skills to most people they tend to think this means developing persuasive speech and conversational skills, but that is only a part of it. To be a really effective communicator you have to understand just how important it is to be an effective listener!
“Why do you think we have two ears and only one mouth?” There’s major clue about the importance of listening in that question. Always remember that listening is at least 50% of the communication effort so it’s well worth your time and effort to develop this precious skill, too.
None of your persuasive, conversational skills will matter if you don’t listen too. Think about it: don’t you always know when you are talking to someone and they are not listening to you? Of course you do, and it works both ways. You want your audience to be an effective listener so return the compliment and make sure you are one too.
- Fight the urge to speak. Sometimes when you’re engaged in a heated conversation, you start to concentrate on what you’re going to say next. You may even be tempted to open your mouth before the other person is finished. Make the extra effort to keep your lips sealed until they’ve finished talking. While they’re speaking, don’t worry about what you’re going to say or how you’re going to say it. Instead, focus on the words and body language of the other person. Let them know you are listening to them.
- Look interested. Your nonverbal communication skills are important while you’re listening. If you look disinterested and uncaring, the person trying to communicate with you will likely pick up on these subtle hints. They may become flustered and less likely to share their thoughts. Makes sense, right? Why bother if you’re not listening? Try to engage with the person talking. Make eye contact and nod your head or smile. Let your conversation partner know that their points are coming across to you.
- Repeat the highlights. One way to literally tell your conversation partner that you’re an effective listener is to simply restate their points. You can repeat key phrases in an affirming tone. You can even give them a quick summary of what they just said in your own words. Try to avoid sharing your opinions when repeating their concepts or ideas. At this point, you simply want to communicate that you’ve listened to them and completely understood their meaning.
- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your conversation partner to elaborate on what they’re saying. If you need further information, then ask for it. The important thing is that you really understand what they’re trying to get across.
- Be patient. It’s also important to be patient, especially when your working with people who may be shy or may not have the ability to communicate very well. You must allow the speaker the opportunity to speak. If you’re not patient, you may well kill the conversation stone dead and scare off your conversation partner.
- Follow your partner’s lead. Being an effective listener doesn’t mean that your only job is to listen. You can and should add to the conversation, too. At the same time, you don’t want to overpower the conversation. Add your input when they ask for it or when they’ve finished their point.
- Practice to become the most Effective Listener. These skills don’t just apply to important business discussions. They should be used to enhance your everyday life. Practice often to make sure you are becoming a more effective listener. After you’ve had a conversation, ask yourself what you remember from it. Write down the details if necessary. Did you allow the other person to do most of the talking?
When you fight the urge to dominate conversations, you’ll become a much more effective listener and be able to truly hear what people have to say!