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Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a huge impact on the effectiveness of your work and the quality of your relationships with others. This significantly influences the time of conducting interviews for the development of your degree thesis. In this way, we listen to gain information, understand, enjoy and learn.

Considering everything we hear, you might think we’re good at it. In fact, most of us are not, and research suggests that we only remember 25 to 50 percent of what we hear, as described in Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience. That means when you talk to your boss, your colleagues, your clients, or your spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation.

Turn it around and reveal that when you receive instructions or are presented with information, you are not listening to the whole message either. You expect the important parts to be captured in your 25-50 percent, but what if not?

It’s clear that listening is a skill we can all improve. If you become a better listener, you can improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade, and negotiate. In addition, it will avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. All this is necessary for success at work.

Listen Carefully

Listening carefully is a learned behavior that is reinforced the more it is put into practice, whether at work or in personal relationships. It’s exactly what it looks like.

We have to choose to pay full attention to the other person, block out the distractions around us, and strive to keep the focus on what they’re saying. It’s time to turn off or set aside phones, laptops, or TVs and delete secondary conversations.

A crucial element of this is catching ourselves when we are formulating counterarguments while the other person is still talking. It’s a bad habit that disrupts the role of listening in communication and makes people wonder if we’re listening to it. If you are mentally preparing a rebuttal, you are not attentive.

Since our brain thinks faster than people speak, it’s tempting to start planning how to respond after hearing just a couple of sentences. But when we allow ourselves to do this, we get distracted and don’t listen to the rest of what the person is saying.

Let the speaker finish any point before they start asking questions, and even then, just ask questions to understand.

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness” is a buzzword that applies to almost every area of life today. Whereas it was once thought to be related to meditation, it is now a widespread practice to help bring peace to our over-stimulated and sometimes chaotic lives.

It’s a concept that fits perfectly with listening skills. To listen carefully is to listen carefully. It’s about being “there” and “in the moment,” rather than allowing your thoughts to bounce and think about other things.

If you’re not familiar with this idea, try Googling the incredible power of being present. You’ll learn how the art of focusing on one thing at a time reduces stress levels, makes you more productive, and gives you the ability to ignore distractions.

You will have to practice. At first, it can be exhausting to tie your thoughts. The growth of mindfulness will translate into better concentration when you listen to others. That kind of listening is what you’d want others to do for you, right?

When we listen carefully (mindfulness) to people – in such a way that they trust to be heard – they can be more receptive to hearing a different point of view, and they can be persuaded to change their perspective. If you disagree, do so with respect.

Listening to Visual Cues

Listen in a group to a co-worker’s conversation during a meeting.

When another person participates, the act of listening becomes a visual as well as an auditory exercise. What’s so visual about it? Well, you have to pay attention to the whole message that is communicated, not just receive their spoken words.

Some research indicates that most human messages do not come from words, but from body language and facial expressions. Nonverbal communication usually expresses emotions much more than words. You can often tell, just by looking, if someone is excited or irritated, even if their words don’t reveal it.

Edward G. Wertheim, author of The Importance of Effective Communication, describes how nonverbal communication interacts with the verbal form: “We… we reinforce, contradict, substitute, complement or emphasize our verbal communication with nonverbal cues such as gestures, expressions and vocal inflection.”

A recent psychology today article suggests being on the lookout for certain behaviors as an important observational ability to listen. People can:

Looking down or away when changing your tone of voice

Doubt or silence

Increase volume or animation

Switch themes

Accentuate the words “always” or “never” when describing other people’s intentions or behavior.

Use the word “really” accompanied by a high tone that accentuates a statement, such as “what I really want” or “what I really can’t stand.”

Any of these signs can be a clue that something is happening internally. The article explains that if you’re not sure what these changes in their expressions mean, ask. Share what you’ve observed and invite them to tell you what’s happening internally.

Keep an open mind while listening. Try to feel what they may be feeling: be empathetic. You may find that your perspective needs to change as much as that of the person you’re listening to.

About Active Listening

The way to improve your listening ability is to practice “active listening.” That is, to make a conscious effort to listen not only to the words that another person says but, above all, to the complete message that is communicated.

To do this, you need to pay attention to the other person very carefully.

You can’t afford to be distracted by anything else that’s going on around you or by forming counter-arguments while the other person is still talking. You also can’t afford to get bored and lose attention to what the other person is saying.

If you find it especially difficult to focus on what someone is saying, try repeating their words mentally as they say them. This will reinforce your message and help you stay focused.

To improve your listening ability, you have to let the other person know that you are listening to what they say.

The Importance of Active Listening

To understand the importance of this, ask yourself if you’ve ever participated in a conversation and wondered if the other person was listening to what you were saying. You wonder if your message is coming, or if it’s worth continuing to talk. It feels like talking to a brick wall and it’s something you want to avoid.

Recognition can be something as simple as a nod or a simple “uh huh.” You don’t necessarily agree with the person, you’re simply indicating that you’re listening. Using body language and other signs to recognize that you’re listening can also help you pay attention.

Try to respond to the interlocutor in a way that encourages them to keep talking, so you can get the information you need. While nodding your head and saying “uh huhing” indicates that you’re interested, an occasional question or comment to recap what’s been said also communicates that you’re listening and understanding their message.

Keep in mind that active listening can give others the impression that you agree with them even if you don’t. It’s also important to avoid using active listening as a list of actions to follow, rather than actually listening. It can be helpful to practice listening attentively if you see that you lose concentration frequently.

How to become an active listener

There are five key active listening techniques you can use to become a more effective listener:

Pay attention

Pay full attention to the speaker and acknowledge receipt of the message. Recognize that nonverbal communication also “speaks” out loud.

Look directly at the speaker.

Let go of distracting thoughts.

Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal.

Avoid being distracted by environmental factors. For example, parallel conversations.

“Listen” to the speaker’s body language.

Show that you are listening

Use your own body language and gestures to show that you are attentive.

Nod from time to time.

Smile and use other facial expressions.

Make sure your stance is open and interested.

Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments such as “yes” and “eh.”

Provide feedback

Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect on what is being said and ask questions.

Reflect on what has been said paraphrasing. “What I hear is… and “It seems like you’re saying… they are good ways to reflect.

Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say…” “Is this what you mean?”

Periodically summarize the speaker’s comments.

If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone has said, say so. And ask for more information: “I may not be understanding you well and I think I take what you’ve said personally. What I thought you said is XXX. Is that what you meant?”

Adjournment of trial

Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits the full understanding of the message.

Let the speaker finish each point before asking questions.

Don’t interrupt with arguments to the contrary.

Respond appropriately

Active listening is designed to foster respect and understanding. It’s about getting information and perspective. You don’t contribute anything if you attack the speaker or look down on them.

Respond sincerely, openly and honestly.

Affirm your opinions with respect.

Treat the other person the way you think they would want to be treated.

Being an active listener requires a lot of concentration and determination. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening ability is as bad as many people’s, you’ll have to work hard to break those bad habits.

Start using active listening techniques today to become a better communicator, improve your productivity, and develop better relationships.

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You may also be interested in: Breathing Exercises to Release Stress

Active listening

Active listening. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Jeswin Thomas

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