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7 Sure Fire Tips to Success through Better Listening

  Written by Ronnie Peterson

Imagine a scenario where a person needs to catch a train or a flight, but is late and misses it. This often happens because people don’t pay attention or listen to instructions carefully. They miss important information like changes in time, venue, cancellations, and traffic conditions etc., because they didn’t listen to their friends, assistants, or partners trying to warn them.This is just one example of how problematic a lack of listening skills can be. It can impact your personal and professional life, and cause needless problems. One of the best ways to avoid these problems is to develop good listening skills. This doesn’t require much time and effort, but can have a significant impact on your life. Here are some tips that can help you develop great listening skills easily.

1. Understand your own listening habits

Being self-aware is the first step to improving listening skills. Evaluate how you interact with others to get a good idea of your listening skills. If other people in the conversation are often forced to call your attention back to them with phrases like “are you listening?” or “will you pay attention?” you need to work on your listening skills. Some people aren’t self-aware, and don’t realise they need to change their habits until they suffer consequences in their personal and professional life. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on how you communicate with others and identify bad habits immediately.

2. Be an active listener

Active listening is a great way to keep the conversation interesting and people engaged. This involves paying attention to what participants in the conversation have to say and giving verbal and non-verbal responses. Here are some tips that will help you become an active listener:

• Always make eye contact during conversations as this helps you focus on the person talking.
• Smile and keep the experience open as that will prompt others to be more open to you.
• Repeat what you hear from time to time and paraphrase. This shows you paid attention and also reduces the possibility of misunderstandings.
• Ask questions relevant to the conversation to get a clearer understanding of the other parties involved in the conversation.
• Pay attention to what they are saying and take note of all the important points.
• Be present in the conversation instead of being distracted by other activities and concerns.

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3. Be aware of the emotional context of the conversation

Ignoring the emotional context in a conversation can also lead to misunderstandings, and leave a false impression on the person you’re conversing with. If you miss the emotional context, your response will appear cold and distant, and that can alienate the person. For example, a person might not take a warning seriously enough, unless they hear the urgent undertone in it.

The weight of emotions that comes with words often gives them a different meaning, which is why it’s important to pay attention to them. Understanding emotional undertones also allows you to respond with empathy, which can help establish a good rapport with the other party in the conversation. Empathy is an important aspect of listening skills so it’s a good idea to cultivate it.

4. Don’t think while listening

Everyone wants to sound intelligent and articulate when they speak, but they also want to say their piece quickly, before the conversation has the chance to move forward in a different direction. This often leads to people thinking about their response instead of finishing listening to what others have to say. This is a form of distraction and can lead to misunderstanding.

Instead of thinking about your response, focus on what the other person has to say. After they have finished saying their piece, think it over and then respond. This calm and measured way of approaching a conversation can help ensure there’s no miscommunication, and it also helps keep all conversations civil and respectful.

Jordan Spieth, the pro golfer, is an excellent example of this. People even notice a pause between them asking the question, and him giving an answer. Look at what journalists say about this, and you will notice just what an impact this has on those you are communicating with. “You notice a few things right away about how Spieth ministers to the press. He smiles an awful lot. He makes eye contact with reporters. “You ask him a question and he answers it!” Sports Illustrated’s Michael Bamberger wrote in an email. “He considers your question and gives a thoughtful, intelligent, original answer.””

Jaime Diaz, the editor of Golf World, said in the same article: “You ask him a question in a press conference or a one-on-one,” and followed with, “and it’s almost like you’re the teacher and he wants to get an A on the answer.” You need to want to answer the question correctly! The only way that you can do that is by listening all the way to the end, then only thinking about your answer.

5. Keep all distractions away

The modern world is full of distractions like smartphones, social media notifications, messages, etc. These distractions compromise the ability to focus on the conversation. You become a passive listener who just nods absently instead of providing thoughtful input. This can alienate the person participating in the conversation and cause you to miss important details as well.

If you actually tell the other person that you are turning your phone off, that can make a really big statement about how well you intend to listen to them, and can create a big impression.

6. Mirror body language

Mirroring body language is something most people do subconsciously when they’re deeply involved in a conversation. They’ll lean forward, reciprocate expression, gestures, and have a responsive body language and this encourages the opposite person to continue the conversation.

Closed-off and defensive body language can discourage others so they’ll hesitate, and become uncertain during conversations. Always keep your body language open and responsive during conversations and pay attention to the body language of those you are conversing with too.

7. Practice every chance you get

It’s not easy to break a habit, so if you have the tendency to listen passively, become distracted, or have a closed body language, it will take some time and effort to eliminate those habits. The best way to handle this is to practice active listening in all situations, including personal conversations. Pay attention to even the smallest exchanges and get into the habit of becoming an active listener.

When you practice consistently, active listening will start to come naturally to you, and that will have a positive impact on your personal and professional life. You won’t miss small details and will be able to retain clear memories of all the conversations you have.

This can help in a number of ways. For example, you will remember something a customer mentioned during a conversation and use that information to improve the quality of service. Similarly, you won’t miss that friend or assistant’s warning about poor traffic conditions when you’re on your way to the station or airport. You thus make your connection on time, and don’t have to deal with all the negative consequences that arose from not listening.

I promise: if you start to work on your listening skills, you’ll see less misunderstanding and problems occurring in your life, which will then bring about an equivalent rise in effectiveness, productivity, and happiness.

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