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 more 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.
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.
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 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?”.
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 this 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 you develop an edge over your peers and set yourself apart at work or in academics.
7. Limit being judgemental
It is a mark of a good listener who can listen more and does not criticise. Even if the message is unsuitable to your liking or causes an alarm, try to avoid nullifying your immediate negative thoughts. It would be helpful to become more open and less judgemental. Be conscious of your thoughts and keep reminding yourself that the other person is giving you a new perspective from their life experiences. And you may have a different opinion or perspective owing to your different life experiences. This is your takeaway for how to develop listening skills if you are struggling to build one.
8. Wait for your moment to ask questions
Any conversation remains fluid when there is an exchange of ideas. A good conversation is not only when you are continuously listening but when you are asking questions at the right time. It is best to wait until the speaker pauses to ask questions. This is how to improve listening skills in English.
9. Show empathy to the speaker
The speaker is also a human who could share their story, life experiences, anecdote, data, or anything. One should mirror the emotions the speaker is reflecting. It should not be the case that the speaker shares a deeply emotional story and the listener is emoting happily because that looks and sounds rude. Empathising takes energy and concentration. This is how to improve listening skills to enhance your quality of communication.
10. Focus on non-verbal cues
Some of the communication is non-verbal; one can learn about an individual through their body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc. It is essential to pay attention to the non-verbal cues while listening as it allows the individual to erect irritation, angst, enthusiasm, boredom, etc.
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.
What is effective listening?
Listening is a significant part of the communication process. Effective listening is the process by which an individual secures information from another individual or group. It involves paying attention to the conversation, avoiding interruption, and taking the time to understand what the speaker is discussing. Effective listening is actively absorbing the information given to you by a speaker, showing that you are listening and interested, and providing feedback to the speaker so that they know the message is received. The process involves taking steps to draw out details that might not otherwise be shared. Effective listening enhances the communication quality, it makes everyone attentive. It encourages an optimistic attitude and fuels more participation for better decision-making in an organization.
Why is effective listening important?
Effective listening is a soft skill that is held in high regard by employers. When interviewing for jobs, using active listening techniques can show the interviewer how your interpersonal skills can draw people out. Effective listening redirects your focus from what is going on inside of your head to the needs of your prospective employer or interviewer. By employing effective listening techniques, you will impress your interviewer and co-workers as a thoughtful, analytical, and highly desirable individual. Researchers have found that by listening effectively, you will get more information from the people you manage, increase others' trust in you, reduce conflict, gain better understanding of how to motivate others, and inspire a higher level of commitment in the people you manage.
What are some examples of effective listening techniques?
Effective listening techniques include building trust and establishing rapport, demonstrating concern, paraphrasing to show understanding, using nonverbal cues that show understanding such as nodding and eye contact, and using brief verbal affirmations like “I see”, “I know”, “Sure”, “Thank you”, or “I understand”. It extends to asking open-ended questions, asking specific questions to seek clarification, waiting to disclose your opinion, and disclosing similar experiences to show understanding. Effective listening is first about understanding the other person, then about being understood as the listener. As you gain a clearer understanding of the speaker’s perspective, you can introduce your own ideas, feelings, and suggestions.
What are some active listening skills?
Some of the active listening skills are - Being present in the conversation, Giving eye contact, Asking open-ended questions, Reflecting back on what has been said, and Listening to understand rather than respond.
What are the listening types?
Some of the listening types are Deep learning, Full listening, Critical listening, and Therapeutic Listening.
What are poor listening skills?
Some of the poor listening skills are - Calling the subject dull, Criticism of the speaker, Listening selective information, Faking attention, and Distraction.