When you are engaged in a conversation, do you ever find yourself ahead of yourself and not really listening completely, and in your mind formulating what you are going to say next? I used the word engaged in the sentence above, but if you are not fully listening to the person in front of you, you are not truly engaged in the conversation. I used to do this quite a bit and have missed out on deeper conversations, if only I had listened with full attention.
So how could you innovate your listening skills?
Well, this post is about how I changed the way my mind works during a conversation, or when someone is talking with me.
In a great conversation, it should be a two way interaction between two minds without the interferences of the person who is listening to formulate an answer or wander off mentally when being spoken to. It is hard for me to really slow it down and give the person my full attention before, because I had the habit of wanting to give my input before really listening to the other person’s perspective and taking it in. Once, I changed the way I interact with others, I am now able to have much more meaningful discussions and it is funny when people tell me that I am such a great listener.
So what are the benefits of listening to others anyways?
Well for one, you might gain new knowledge or see things from a different angle. Remember, you only know what you know and the way you think could be totally different than how others think. Allowing others to give their perspective on things and sharing their knowledge on whatever it is that you are talking about, you might gain a new way of looking at things that you might have missed or learn something new. Now you really don’t lose anything by allowing the other person to have their say, you still have your opinions and thoughts about the topic at the time, but you get different perspectives.
Another benefit is that you will give yourself the opportunity to really connect with them and being the ear to take in what another wants to communicate. Sometimes, I wait until the other person asks me for my opinion and by listening with full engagement, the other person asking for your perspective seems to listen to what you have to say much more than trying to force your opinions. Before when I used to give an answer before the person even finished their thought process, the conversations did not go as deeply as when I changed my listening habits to allow the other person to talk. I learned more, and also connected with the person on a much deeper level. By listening, the other person is much more interested in hearing what you have to say. So the effect is quite amazing versus trying to force your thoughts, you allow a productive dialogue where the other person feels that you truly listened and understand them, and when you give this to the other person, they will respect what you have to say much more because you have listened and understand what they were trying to communicate.
So How Can You Innovate the way you Listen?
- Questions: When asking a question, allow the other person time to think it through and answer. We all hate the silent moments in conversations and some people really think about the question you asked and might need a little time to think before speaking. Allow this time and wait for the other to speak. I used to have the bad habit of shooting off one question after another or even worse answer for them to where their response turns into yes or no answers, resulting in an unproductive and less meaningful conversation.
- Think: When the person you are talking to says anything, put some thought into it before you give your answer or wait for them to ask about your opinion on what they had to say.
- Ask: Ask more questions about what the other just said to get a better understanding. This is an active listener skill, and advanced communication skill that seeks to understand the other completely. This also shows the other that you want to understand them and have listened to them up to that point.
- Listen: Make it a point to be fully engaged in what the other person has to say. Don’t look around them, think of an answer as they are speaking or think about what you want to say. Be in the moment and give full attention to what the other person has to say.
- Take Notes: If you ask someone for their opinion or advice on something, an active listener will take notes to remember what the other person has said. Note taking shows active listening, but don’t over do it and have the note taking take away from you listening.
- Confirm: Give confirming gestures and remarks as the other person speaks. Ask them to elaborate more, dig deeper and let them know you are listening. A great way to show this by nodding your head or say, “so what you are saying is this…” to ensure that you understand what the other is trying to communicate to you.
Changing the way you communicate takes an active role on your part but you can implement it immediately with the next person you talk to. Give some of these tactics a try, shut your mouth and open your ears… both of them and see how your interactions become much more meaningful and engaging.