Key ways to improve listening skills
Effective communication happens when the speaker rapports their information effectively to the receiving end. We all have been either a deliverer of speech or a person at the receiving end on numerous occasions. So have you been playing the role of the receiving end party well by being an effective listener? Or have you ever felt like you’ve been hearing “a lot of things” at a meeting? If it’s the latter case, don’t worry, I got you!
Listening and hearing are two different things. “Listening” is a skill you should develop to receive information effectively when communicating, whereas “Hearing” is your natural ability to identify sound stimuli. Hence, it turns out that if you’ve been hearing “a lot of things” instead of encoding information when engaging in a conversation, you should practice these strategies to be a good listener. This is because whether you are a leader or a member of a large organization, improving listening skills is a handy tool to master!
- Be attentive.
- Ask questions.
- Request clarification.
Step 01 – Be attentive!
Sometimes, we tend to drift off to our little imaginations while talking with someone. And when the second we come back to reality, we have no sense of what’s going on! It is at this point you’ll start to hear things instead of listening. What I do is consistently maintain my interest in the conversation. That is, by carefully listening to what the speaker is saying while encoding the necessary information and not making judgements or conclusions in my head. Another important thing is eye contact, this is because when we maintain our eye contact with the speaker; it is easy to concentrate during the listening process. So do not forget to face the speaker and maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. If you are a leader, you should be attentive to what your members are saying in order to come up with better objectives, adjustments, and improvements. If you are a member of a large organization, you should always be attentive to what your colleagues and leader are saying in order to give your maximum to achieve organizational goals.
Step 02 – Ask questions
Would you like it if someone you’re talking to is just staring at you and you just kind of feel like being a radio playing audio on its own? No, nobody appreciates something like that. And that’s why we need to make sure not to put the speaker in an uncomfortable situation like that. What I do is ask questions. Ask questions which are related to the topic and make sure they are open-ended questions. You may think that asking questions is an interruption, but actually, it makes the speaker more confident to report the maximum information to you when you show him or her that you are interested. So ask questions starting with “How” “What” and “Why” to open up new sides of the topic you’re dealing with and make sure they are asked in a welcoming manner. I ask questions like “What might have caused that?” or “Why do you think that ‘s the case?” so that the speaker feels welcomed to speak more. This is a brilliant way to grab the maximum ideas of your members to come up with holistic decisions and better strategies to achieve organizational goals.
Step 03 – Request Clarification
Have you ever felt like you lost track of where the conversation is going? That is because you have missed the first step of this whole listening process; that is, being attentive to what the speaker is saying. Don’t worry, it is totally okay to be caught in a situation like that as long as you request clarification. Yes, don’t ever hesitate to request clarification from the speaker if you feel like you didn’t get it right. I always ask “Could you say that again, please?” or “Would you elaborate on that, please?” whenever I feel like I don’t get what the speaker is trying to say. This will make the speaker to be more specific and effectively communicate his or her idea. Et voilà! Effective communication happens. Thus, this is a core requirement to process with the organizational goals as it is important to make sure that the leader and members are all on the same page when working towards a common objective.
Step 04 – Paraphrase
After requesting clarification as we discussed in step three, it is important to make sure that you clearly got the idea that the speaker conveyed while also ensuring the speaker that he or she had effectively communicated his or her idea. So, how can we kill these two birds with one stone? That could be done by Paraphrasing! How I do it is by repeating the underlying idea of the speaker’s points with my own words whilst maintaining the level of formality by matching the tone of the speaker. You can start to say your paraphrase by saying “So, what you’re saying is…” or ” If I got you right, you mean that…”. This way, you can assure the speaker that you have listened to his or her speech effectively while confirming that the information has been understood precisely by you. In an organizational scenario, this should be a crucial step before wrapping up any meeting. That is because this step confirms that the discussed information has been effectively communicated among the leader and the members of the organization.
That’s it! These are the keys to make you an effective listener. Next time when you’re engaging in a conversation, ace these steps so that you won’t just hear “a lot of things” but instead actually listen and effectively encode the information delivered by the speaker.
AIESEC in University of Peradeniya