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How to develop listening skills

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Listening skills along with speaking skills are essential parts of effective communication. Good communication is valued throughout most jobs in various industries. You may need to consider improving your listening skills to fully apply your communication skills in your workplace and beyond. In this article, we discuss why listening skills are important and how you can improve them with this 10-step guide to effective listening.

Why are listening skills important?

Listening skills are an essential part of good communication. When you are an attentive listener, you can begin to improve relationships, make decisions more effectively and reach agreements with others quickly. Here are some additional reasons why listening skills are important:

Demonstrates your ability to pay attention to thoughts, behaviors and feelings of an individual

Increases your power to influence, serve, motivate or develop people effectively

Enables an organization to operate efficiently with the information they are given that may cause them to adapt to market trends or consumer needs

Enhances basic human interaction

Builds personal and professional relationships

Listening skills are also important to many business roles such as:

How to improve your listening skills

It is essential to evaluate your current listening skills to select the areas you can improve in. Here are some steps you may take to help improve your listening skills:

Maintain eye contact with the speaker.

Visualize what the speaker is saying.

Wait for a pause to ask questions.

Ask clarifying questions.

Empathize with the speaker.

Pay attention to nonverbal cues.

Provide the speaker with feedback.

1. Maintain eye contact with the speaker

When you are listening to someone talk, you should avoid looking out a window, texting or scrolling through your phone, or scanning a computer screen. Limit any unnecessary distractions, provide the speaker with your undivided attention and make an effort to look at them. This provides them with a nonverbal cue that you are interested in what they are saying, which encourages them to continue expressing themselves.

Consider that the speaker may not look at you because they might be shy, feel uncertain, or their culture may not use direct eye contact for communication. You should continue to face the speaker even if they do not look at you.

2. Visualize what the speaker is saying

Try to conjure up mental images of what the speaker is talking about while you are listening to help retain information. This may be a literal picture or other concepts that relate to the topic. This will help you to remember keywords and phrases when you listen for long periods. Visualizing what the speaker is saying will also help you to not have to prepare for what to say next.

If you happen to lose focus, make sure to immediately refocus.

3. Limit judgments

Listen without criticizing the speaker in your mind while they talk. Even if the message causes you agitation or alarm, try to avoid thinking about negative or judgmental comments because this compromises your ability to listen. You also want to listen with an open mind and understand that the person is giving you their perspective. You may realize that they make more sense as they continue to talk to you, and you won’t know the full story without listening.

4. Don’t interrupt

Everyone speaks and processes information at different rates. If someone is delivering their message slowly, try to cultivate patience and wait for them to finish before trying to rush them along by guessing the next thing they are going to say or replying before they have finished talking. Interrupting sends the wrong message to the speaker. It may suggest that what you have to say is more important, that you don’t care about what they are saying or that the conversation is a competition.

It is also important to refrain from offering solutions. Most often people just want you to listen. However, if you have a brilliant idea, you may consider asking if you can share your ideas before you offer your solution.

5. Wait for a pause to ask questions

You may not understand everything someone says to you. It is best to wait until they pause to ask them to back up and provide clarification for the topic or phrase you misunderstood.

6. Ask clarifying questions

Asking clarifying questions helps to keep the conversation on topic. You only want to ask questions that pertain to your understanding rather than ask a question about something that is not related to the main idea the speaker is trying to get across. When you ask clarifying questions without interrupting, it shows that you are listening, paying attention and willing to discuss things further.

7. Empathize with the speaker

Empathy is essential to effective listening. You should mirror the emotions the speaker has. For instance, if their face conveys sadness or joy then your facial expressions and words should also convey similar emotions. Empathizing with the speaker takes concentration and expends energy, but it allows for open communication and establishes relationships.

8. Pay attention to nonverbal cues

Most of the communication that takes place between individuals is nonverbal. You can learn a great deal about someone through their body language and tone of voice when they are communicating with you. It is easy to detect boredom, enthusiasm or irritation on someone’s face when they talk depending on their eyes, mouth and position of their shoulders. Therefore, listening also includes paying attention to nonverbal cues. It helps you to make inferences based on what a person actually means when they are talking to you.

9. Provide the speaker with feedback

Feedback can be verbal and nonverbal. You can use verbal feedback by saying things like, “I understand that must be difficult,” or “okay.” You can use nonverbal cues such as nodding your head and using appropriate facial expressions.

The goal is to send signals to the speaker so they know that you are actively listening. In a situation where someone is giving you tasks, make sure to repeat the task list back to the speaker so they know you understand what you are supposed to do. Writing down what they say also shows attentiveness.

10. Practice listening

You can practice listening by being aware of what you do when someone is talking to you. Do this by writing down what you heard, understood and acknowledged after an in-person interaction with someone, or listen to audiobooks or podcasts without any text in front of you. Try listening to no more than four-minute clips and replay them to see how much information you are able to retain. This will help you to become more aware of your role as a receiver of information and it can enhance your overall communication skills.

He is a Growth Hacker, Digital Marketer & Blogger. He loves solving problems of scale and long term digital strategy.

In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, information is abundant, and so many conversations are happening simultaneously, digitally, and in real life. This is why effective listening has gained paramount importance so that crucial details in conversational exchanges don’t slip through the cracks.

Effective listening has multifold benefits:

  • It shows you care
  • It makes you a better communicator.
  • It fosters deeper and meaningful relationships.
  • It resolves conflicts

Genuinely listening to what’s being said can help you in various spheres of life. As a student, paying attention in class ensures you grasp concepts clearly and extract maximum value from your education. In the workplace, carefully listening to your manager’s instructions can mean the difference between doing a good job and a great job. Often, it can save you from misunderstanding and making a mess of your task or assignment.

Table of Contents

Useful Tips to Improve Effective Listening Skills

1. Keep Eye Contact

Imagine this – your partner is talking to you, but you keep looking out the window or into the digital abyss that is your mobile phone. How rude would that seem? How worthless would the speaker feel? It is basic social etiquette to face your partner and look them in the eyes while indulging in a conversation with them. Your undivided attention makes the speaker feel that s/he’s being truly heard and s/he says matters.

Turning to face the speaker is one of the easiest ways to follow the conversation and become an effective listener. Put aside all distractions and do your partner the courtesy of maintaining eye contact while talking to them. Even if their gaze shifts every now and again, you stay focused.

2. Try To Visualize

Creating mental models of the key points being put forth is a great way to wrap your head around the conversation’s gist. If you can paint a vivid picture, you will understand the conversation better and retain it with high fidelity for longer.

How to develop listening skills

Use mnemonic devices, make word associations, link stuff to concepts you already know, memorise phrases and keywords, and you’re well on your way to being an active listener. This trick can come especially handy if you’re a student and trying to recollect important fundas. Stay alert and let your imagination run wild.

3. Don’t Butt In Randomly

What many of us do is let our minds wander during a conversation. In other words, we zone out and then try to zone back in. But when we try to hop back on the train of conversation, we inadvertently interrupt the speaker, which breaks the flow of the conversation and derails the speaker’s train of thought. This can be a frustrating experience and spoils the throughput of the conversation.

Instead, please wait for the speaker to complete their point and then interject with your question or seek clarification. For example, if you’ve enrolled for an online course, let the teacher finish their lesson and then raise your hand to ask any query/doubt you might have.

Some of us have the habit of rehearsing what we say next. We focus on planning our words and how we put them across instead of tuning in. So when we do rejoin the conversation, we tend to speak on top of the speaker. Avoid this; don’t try to pre-empt. Let the flow of the conversation guide your thoughts.

4. Ask To Understand, Not To Show Off

We’ve all come across that one person in class who asks a question just to flaunt his knowledge and not because s/he’s unaware or confused. Don’t be this person. Interrupt the speaker to ask a question only if something they said went over your head.

Feel free to say stuff like “Hold on, I’m not sure I follow. Come again?” or “Back up, didn’t get you. Can you rephrase what you said?” or the classic “Wait, sorry to interrupt but can you explain this to me like I’m 5?”.

How to develop listening skills

5. Give Feedback

Your facial expression is a dead giveaway of the amount of interest you have in the conversation. Get your body language right while listening – nodding, shaking the head, smiling are all non-verbal cues that fill the speaker with confidence that you’re listening with rapt attention. Show that you’re wired in by chiming in with periodic “Hmm’s” or “Gotcha’s”.

If you agree with what the speaker said wholeheartedly, insert a well-timed “Yep, that makes total sense.” If you’re unsure about what the speaker meant, say “Just to be clear…” and paraphrase the content to ensure both of you are on the same page. All these small, affirmative feedback is proof of effective listening and improves the quality of conversation manifold.

6. Get Adept At Mirroring

Consciously try to replicate the speaker’s expressions, body language, and other non-verbal cues. Try to match their energy by smiling when they’re smiling or giving an understanding nod when their tone is one of frustration. Mirroring subconsciously conveys to them that you are engaged and not detached from the conversation and is a great way to show that you are fully hooked on their words.

The world is moving at a breakneck speed, and attention spans are dwindling. Amid this backdrop, sharpening your effective listening skills can help develop an edge over your peers and set yourself apart at work or in academics.

Conclusion

Practise effective listening with the help of the steps above while learning a higher education course on upGrad . Get an MBA degree from esteemed universities, or get certifications in useful subjects like Data Science, Marketing, Sales, and more, which are all important from the career point of view.

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Good communication skills is an indispensable part of work. And, listening skills are an important part of communication process. Its importance is always emphasized and yet people turn a blind eye to it. In this blog, we will be telling you about the ways in which you can develop your listening skills to become successful in life.

Watch the video or continue reading.

We all try to be good communicators and focus more on speaking. Everyone knows how important listening is in the communication process, but still we fail in it. We are here for your rescue! We will tell you the basic rules that you must keep in mind while having a conversation. Here are the tips to improve your listening skills:

How to develop listening skills

1. Be attentive to develop listening skills

Always be attentive when the other person speaks. If you keep diverting yourself and don’t give enough importance to the individual, he/ she may feel insulted and won’t bother talking to you. Improving listening skills is very important, especially, in this self-consuming world where people are too caught up with their own issues. When you let the other person feel that you are genuinely interested in his/ her word, you develop a good connection and earn respect.

How to develop listening skills

2. Avoid preconceived notions

Come with an open mind when you are going to have a conversation with a person. What happens is, you listen less and judge more if you have some notions about the person. Sometimes, it’s inevitable but you can try to be neutral in your emotions. In order to develop your listening skills, you have to stop yourself from bringing your prior judgements in way of your today’s conversation. By doing away with all preconceived notions, you can become successful in your life.

How to develop listening skills

3. Don’t interrupt

Try not to cut off a person while he/ she is speaking. Be more considerate and let the other person speak his/ her mind first. In order to improve your listening skills, you need to know how important it is to give the other person the freedom to express himself/ herself. If you wish to become successful in life, you know what to do! Also, by doing this, you will impress other people and earn their trust and admiration.

How to develop listening skills

4. Intent to learn: Most important tip to develop listening skills

If you have read our blog on LIFELONG LEARNING DESIRE: THE KEY TO SUCCESS, you might be well-accepted with the fact that learning is a lifelong and continuous process. The intent and the ability to learn is very important. While having a conversation with an individual, you are exposed to a whole new world of ideas and thoughts. You should know the skill to take away something with every talk.

In order to develop your listening skills, you have to have the motive of learning something new. Take the example of pursuing internships in good companies, where an intern looks for learning as much as possible, by getting a hand-on experience and listening to the trainer. Always remember that the other person has a different perspective and if you can’t learn from him/ her, then you can’t be a learner. Whether it’s about HOW TO INCREASE ADAPTABILITY AT OFFICE or at different spheres of life, being experimental and learning from those experiences are worth the time and money. To improve listening skills, always be open to listen what the other person against you has to say.

How to develop listening skills

5. Maintain eye contact

It is very important to make eye contact with the other person to demonstrate your attentiveness and interest. You can improve your listening skills by being serious about the stuff the other person is saying. When you don’t look at the person, he/ she will know that you aren’t into whatever he/ she is speaking. This will not only break the trust but also bring tension into the relationship in the long run. If you wish to become successful in life, then you better let the other person feel that you are interested.

How to develop listening skills

6. Ask if anything is not clear

It is better to ask the person if you haven’t understood anything. Clear out all your doubts! You may fall into trouble when you didn’t get what the person was trying to say. You may be misconstrued if you haven’t paid attention. As mentioned earlier, have a learning knack and get your questions clarified. To become successful in life, you have to know how and when to ask questions. Develop your listening skills by following this simple rule.

These were the tips and tricks to improve your listening skills. It is obviously not an overnight process, and requires patience and practice. Patience and resilience is also one of the ESSENTIAL BEHAVIORAL SKILLS THAT EMPLOYERS NEED IN INDIA. Keep the learner in you alive and use it to your advantage while having a conversation. Remember, MORE KNOWLEDGE = LESS EGO AND HIGH LEARNING CAPACITY! It is never too late to realize and develop your listening skills.

Talk less, listen more.

How to develop listening skills

Most of us move through each day engaging in conversations with friends, co-workers, and family members. But the majority of the time, we aren’t listening.

We’re often distracted by things in our environment–both external things like televisions, cell phones, cars, and other people talking, and internal things like our own thoughts and feelings.

We think that we’re listening to the other person, but we’re really not giving them our full and complete attention.

As a licensed therapist and coach, one of the most important things I do for clients is deeply listen to what they’re saying. When you deeply listen with your whole body and mind to what another person is communicating, it helps them feel understood and valued.

One technique that therapists learn in graduate school that aims to provide full and complete attention to the speaker is called active listening.

Active listening builds rapport, understanding, and trust. It’s a proven psychological technique that helps therapists create a safe, comfortable atmosphere that encourages clients to discuss important thoughts and feelings.

Active listening involves fully concentrating on what is being said rather than passively absorbing what someone is saying. It’s not just about remembering the content of what someone is sharing, but actively seeking to understand the complete message–including the emotional tones–being conveyed.

This type of listening involves participating in the other person’s world and being connected to what the other person is experiencing.

That’s a lot of information–much more than you’re used to consciously interpreting in daily conversations. And that’s because many things get in the way of active listening.

People often are selective listeners, meaning that they focus on a few key words and ignore the rest of the person’s communication. They’re often distracted by external stimuli like random sounds or movements, and internal stimuli such as one’s own thoughts and feelings.

In other situations, individuals allow their own biases and values to pick arguments with the other person’s speech rather than remaining focused on their message. They waste valuable time and energy preparing to respond rather than giving their full, undivided attention to the speech.

With all of these challenging layers to active listening, how does one improve these skills?

Read the list below to discover how to become a better listener, and in doing so, become better at navigating relationships and networking opportunities.

1. Avoid internal and external distractions.

Focus on what they’re saying. Don’t allow other thoughts or sounds to sway your concentration.

2. Listen to the content of their speech.

Focus on the specific words they’re using. Each phrase and word choice is something interesting that you should be taking in.

3. Listen to the context of their speech.

What are the over-arching stories and circumstances they are discussing? Are there common themes? What are the unique situations this person finds themselves in and how does that relate to what they’re telling you?

4. Listen to the tone of their voice.

Vocal tones convey a lot about what a person might be feeling. Think about what their vocal tone implies about their feelings. All feelings have a story–learn theirs.

5. Listen for the emotions the speaker is likely experiencing.

The more that you follow and amplify the person’s emotions, the more likely they are to feel understood. With so many people uncomfortable about sharing their feelings, moments of vulnerability can quickly build a deeper connection.

6. Pay attention to their body language and make appropriate eye contact.

With much of communication being non-verbal, it’s incredibly important that you soak in as much information as possible while also showing them–physically–that you are sharing in their experience.

7. Provide small verbal encouragements and don’t fight silences.

Saying small things like, “yes,” “right,” “that makes sense,” and allowing natural silences to occur without filling them due to your own discomfort goes a long way in building rapport.

8. Ask open-ended questions to encourage elaboration.

There’s no substitute for a good question–try to get lengthy responses to understand the big picture.

9. If you need them to slow down or want specific info, ask close-ended questions.

Questions that can be answered in yes or no slow down the pace when you’re feeling overwhelmed and also allow you to gather important details that you missed earlier.

10. Offer affirmations that the person has made valuable and important choices.

Affirmations are like compliments–everyone likes them. Instead of saying, “I’m proud of you,” like a compliment, an affirmation focuses on the other person, “You should be proud of your hard work.”

Start practicing these basic listening skills. They are simple yet powerful ways to facilitate conversation and help others feel understood.