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Tips For Effective Listening Skills

Mar 27, 2008
It is very important to possess effective listening skills in every aspect of life in order to be able to send your message out. The ability to listen at work, at home, and in social situations is as important as being able to present well. This also applies to leadership, management or a team member position.

It is important to listen because your understanding of the thoughts and motivation of the other person are increased. Being aware of what motivates the other person is the key to enable you to present your message within that situation, consequently your effectiveness will be improved.

Listed below are a few tips that will assist you greatly in improving your listening skills.

1. Listen with Empathy

People generally listen with the intention to answer. This is what conversations are all about.

You can significantly improve the way that you respond better in a conversation by simply adding the slightest twist. In order to appreciate what the other person is saying from his or her point of view, it is important to listen with intent. During those few moments, do not think about how you wish to respond.

Once you have understood the other person's views, you can then proceed to respond with your views. However, respond in a way that shows empathy to what you have just heard.

In the American Heritage Dictionary, the definition of empathy is the identification and understanding of another person's situation, feelings and motives.

This, in no way, means that you are accepting the views and opinions of the other person. It simply means that you have given their point of view your due consideration and understanding.

First, it is important, because you may not have completely understood what they were saying, which can result in an incorrect conclusion. However, by receiving more information, it may be that you change your mind about how you respond.

Second, when the other person is aware of the fact that you are listening to what they are saying, they will respond likewise when you speak. You are appreciated by other people when they are aware that you have given their opinions and views your full attention.

2. Ask the Right Questions

People will open up to you during discussions as well as you receiving a better understanding of any situation when you ask the right questions.

People, on many occasions, have a habit of talking based on their understanding of the situation.

Clarification questions should be asked first. When doing this, avoid asking questions that will result in the answer being "yes" or "no". Begin with broad based questions that will lead to detailed answers. This will result in information being divulged that you maybe would never have thought of.

Another point to note about asking questions is to ask for clarifications when general statements are referred to. For instance, if a person states that there are certain issues that need addressing, ask for a list of those issues.

The other person will think more about the question when it is asked correctly, which will very often result in you being pleasantly surprised that the other person will arrive at the same conclusion as you, without the need to justify it.

3. Be Patient

Even though the value of listening with empathy and asking the right questions are appreciated, it is not an easy thing to do. You need to tell yourself to listen patiently. To be blunt, you need to tell yourself to "shut up" when other people are talking.

It is simple to inform someone of our opinions as soon as they enter our heads. A great deal of patience is required to listen and hold on to your thoughts. This requires a conscious decision and effort.

4. Give the Right Body Language

Have you ever been holding a discussion with someone in the office, and they have been rude enough to continue checking their emails as you are talking? Or maybe they were looking at their watch every few minutes.

Well, this body language shows that they are not at all interested in what you are saying. If you are too busy to hold a discussion, then the polite thing would be to set another time for the discussion whereby you can give it your full attention.

When the discussion is taking place, lean forward slightly and maintain a comfortable eye contact with the other person.

Taking notes, in appropriate situations, is a good indicator that you consider the points that the other person is putting across as being important. This is also a great way to remember what all of the points were, because it is simple to forget one or two when the discussion is lengthy.

5. Summarize

A good indicator of whether you have listened well to the discussion is by summarizing it. The significance of this is to confirm that you have correctly understood the points that were made.

Making notes in a work environment is important to be able to summarize. If notes have been made, then summarizing can be done faster and more precise. If you have not made notes, then you may ramble through it, based upon what you can remember about the conversation which will not be effective.

To make summarizing more simple, take notes in point format. Another tip, which is a great help, is to add your thoughts to the notes as you go along.

This needs to be done as you will want to put across your thoughts and ideas also, but you are aware of the fact that you need to wait and listen in the first instance. It is simple to forget something if you do not raise it immediately. For this reason taking notes is a very helpful task.

Effective listening will be very difficult if you do not use the points listed above. However, you will be aware of the fact that it is well worth your efforts when you do utilize the techniques and realize that it is more effective in achieving your objectives during discussions and meetings.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of My-Personal-Growth.com, a site that provides information and articles for self improvement and personal growth and development.
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