Find a way to remember ‘the important bits’
Not every single word that comes from someone’s mouth is vital information. The key to being a great listener is to develop a sensor for the important parts.
You will have seen animals’ ears prick up when they hear something that’s of particular interest. We wouldn’t suggest breaking into a rabbit impersonation mid-conversation, but when you hear a valuable nugget of information, repeat it to yourself mentally or make a quick note.
Anything that ensures the ‘important bits’ stay with you.
Get rid of distractions
We all like to think we’re masters of multi-tasking… but we’re not. If you’re serious about listening, you need to pause everything else.
That means stopping whatever you’re doing on the computer to take a telephone call or to have a conversation with a colleague.
And try to make sure your conversations take place in an environment that’s suitable for good listening.
Listen to the full message the other person is trying to convey to you before interrupting. You might butt in before they’ve said the most important part or blurt out something they were about to say.
Let them finish before asking questions or giving your opinion. After all, they might not even want your input.
Adjust your listening to the situation
There are different levels of listening. You’ll probably listen far more intently to a friend who’s asked you for advice than you’ll listen to the radio while you’re doing something else.
If a colleague has a quick discussion with you about something, you might just want to remember the important points of what was said. But in a meeting with a customer, you might want to take notes of everything they said.
Show you’re listening
The example of taking notes in a meeting with a customer isn’t just for your benefit: it also demonstrates to the other person that you are interested in what they are saying.
Other ways of demonstrating this include:
Making eye contact with the other person
Giving a nod from time to time.
Smiling and using facial expressions to show you’re taking in the information.
Maintaining an open posture and body language.
Giving short verbal responses such as ‘yes’ or ‘I see’, without interrupting.
If you can follow those five steps your listening skills shouldn’t be too shabby. Let us know how you get on – we’re all ears.