6 Solutions to Improve Your Listening Skills

Listening in the middle of chaos

Listening is a skill that takes time and practice.

“You hear her, but you’re not really listening,” the counselor told me. She was leaving and I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. I thought I followed all the advice I told, but building listening skills were one checkbox I forgot to explore.

My future was in jeopardy if I didn’t slow down and learn what was being communicated.

Have you ever been a part of a conversation where there appeared to be a competition on who would reply the quickest? It was a rapid-fire response. Hearing what was being said, digesting it and providing a well-thought out answer was never part of the equation.

Here’s another scenario: you’re in a meeting and to not sound weak or uninformed you provide an off-the-cuff answer that doesn’t hit the mark and instead of it showing an epiphany of brilliance, it showcases your ignorance. Unfortunately, it wasn’t because you don’t know the answer, you never really heard the question.

The biggest problem we have is that we don’t listen to understand, to gather intel or hear in between the spoken words, we listen to see how fast we can reply.

If your future depends on your ability to communicate, here’s a recipe to consider:

1. Don’t feel forced to give an answer. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you.” The right response will often take time.
2. Remove distractions and shut off electronic notifications. There is nothing more important than the moment which you’re currently in.
3. Silence isn’t a bad thing. Let it linger until you’re able to provide the right answer or response, not just any answer or response.
4. Learn to read body language and the communication that is happening beyond the words that are being spoken.
5. If you don’t understand, ask the question or statement to be repeated. If you need more time to frame your response, ask the question or statement to be repeated.
6. Practice listening making eye contact and focusing on the individual who is speaking. While looking away may appear to make you feel like you’re in deep thought, it also can communicate you’re not interested.

Practice. Listen. Pause. Speak

Image by JR.Jin.