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Become an Effective Listener in 5 Easy Steps!

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

"The art of conversation lies in listening." - Malcolm Forbes

I finished a course on "Effective Listening" and it has truly impacted the way I listen to people. Through this post, I will share my understanding of this course and some key points that I learned.

Different Modes of Listening:

1. Recall listening - When the communicator expects you to take action or execute a task, it is crucial that you give utmost attention to the information that is required to do that task. It is advisable to extract such information from the conversation and note it down.

2. Understanding the big - There are many conversations where paying too much attention to the details is not required. For instance, when your friend is sharing the experience of an amusement park, it is not important to know about the color of rides, the number of rides, age limits, etc. You just need to understand what his/her experience was like (the big picture).

3. Evaluate content - When you need to take a decisive call on a matter, try to look for information such as - is this idea good or bad, how will it impact you and people around you, is the information source credible/accurate/recent?

4. Attune to subtle cues - Action speaks louder than words. An effective listener not only pays attention to the words that are being said but also understands the non-verbal signs, body language, posture, and gestures.

5. Empathize & match emotions - To build a long-term and good relationship with the communicator, it is important that you listen to them with empathy & match emotions. Put yourself in their shoes, paraphrase the emotion as well as the content of their concern, match & mirror emotions/enthusiasm/concern/happiness/seriousness.

Now keep these points in your mind while listening to others and try to pick the listening mode suitable for particular situations.

Ways to Overcome Listening Challenges:

1. Preventing distractions - Sometimes our mind is too busy in its thought process or our focus is somewhere else due to which we miss out on listening to information. In such a situation, ask yourself, why you need this information and what information do you exactly need, OR, if possible, try to change what is causing a distraction.

2. Stop being biased - While listening to others, you may expect someone else to say what you want them to say or you make a premature evaluation on a matter. This leads to communication breakdown and you might end up having a misconception or wrong understanding of the message. The key is to listen completely to the communicator before making any judgment or opinion.

3. Avoid multitasking - Multitasking is a huge barrier to good listening. As proved by a study, when you listen to somebody and do something else simultaneously, you are likely to make more errors and slow down your work time, plus you lose the confidence & trust of the communicator because you are not a good listener.

Effective Listening Behaviours:

1. Non-verbal cues - Use appropriate non-verbal cues to show communicator you are an active listener. A smile could mean openness & confidence, eye contact shows that you welcome a message, leaning in with your head or body shows that you are listening attentively.

2. Allow silence - Physical & vocal silence makes you a better listener. Physical silence means no fidgeting, swaying, glancing around with your eyes or shifting positions. Vocal silence can communicate respect. While listening, wait a few seconds before paraphrasing, try to maintain eye contact, nod affirmatively, do this without saying anything.

3. Paraphrase what was said - Paraphrasing means summarizing what was said in fewer words. Doing this tells the speaker you were listening attentively and allows you to check the understanding of the message.

I hope these points will help you become a better listener.

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