I don’t like to talk on the phone. The only people who can get me to do it are my dad and grandmother, and that's just because they don't know how to send text messages.
The problem with our culture’s current penchant for nonverbal communication is that it leads many of us to forget about the fine art and skill of actually listening to people. We want information delivered in small, easy-to-digest snippets that require the least amount of effort to respond as possible.
The other issue is that we are actually biologically programmed to listen about three times faster than anyone can talk. This means our brains are likely to tune out and try to entertain themselves, meaning we aren't actually listening the entire time.
What we need to realize, though, is that being a good listener is actually one of the best ways to increase your influence and likeability with others.
Not only that, employers also say that listening is one of the top skills that they seek in potential and current employees since it's linked to a perceived ability to lead.
So, how do we break our bad listening habits and work on being better listeners?
1. Be present
Practice being an intentional listener in every conversation you're engaged in, regardless of whether it’s with coworkers, friends or your cab driver. Put down your cell phone and everything else that might be distracting you.
Texting while someone is speaking to you is a pretty good indication that you really aren't interested in what the person is saying (and that feels sh*tty if you’re the listener). If you're at work, close your laptop and move papers to the side to make others feel like you're fully engaged.
Maintaining eye contact and leaning forward are also great body language indicators that make others feel like you are interested in what they’re saying (even if you're not).
2. Resist the urge to interrupt
We often feel as though interrupting to offer our opinion can serve as an indicator that we are listening or understand, but even though it may be well intended, this isn't the best way to make someone feel heard. Give the speaker uninterrupted time to express his or her thoughts and feelings.
Even physical reactions should be minimal, as these are generally just ways for us to get a word in. It's tempting to want to give our thoughts to someone, but holding back until you're confident the other person has expressed an idea to the extent of his or her liking is the safest route to take.
3. Repeat back
This will likely make more sense in work situations, but repeating back what you heard with a simple "So, what you're saying is…" can validate that you were paying attention and care enough to ensure you understand what the other party is trying to communicate.
If there's something you don't understand, ask for more details. Asking questions means you want to hear more, as opposed to just wanting to add your input or switch the topic back to what you want to say (a bad habit we can all possess).
We all want to feel like we're being heard. Give that respect to others and watch how it positively impacts your relationships. The first step is to be mindful when you're not giving your full attention and work to correct it.
Once you commit to being an attentive listener, it will become second nature and then, boom, you're suddenly a better friend, coworker and employee.
Photo Courtesy: Open Road Films/Jobs