The art of listening


by Marcus Loane


10th Nov 2009



 Good listeners are quite rare and when you come across one it can be quite a refreshing surprise. The good listeners in my life stand out in my memory. A good listener gives you the feeling that they are genuinely interested in what you have to say and want to understand you. A good listener will not interrupt you as you speak or finish your sentences for you, or make you feel hurried. Often when we talk with someone we are not really engaging fully with them and we are just waiting for them to finish so we can say our piece. Your conversation partner will sense this.
 Being a better listener is a worthwhile aim. It will improve your relationships and help you conduct successful teamwork in business and it will make you more approachable. We can all be better listeners and it is an area where I know I can improve.


 How to be a better listener:


Make eye contact. Nod. Use appropriate body language such as turning towards the speaker or moving closer.


Avoid distractions such as phones and television so that you are giving the speaker all your attention.


Do not interrupt and look/feel impatient.


Use silence.


Really try and understand what you are being told and try to see the world the way the other person does rather than internally being dismissive or disagreeing or thinking how it impacts you.


Allow the other person to pause and gather their thoughts. The focus is on them for now, it's not on you.


Hear them out. Let them finish.


Ask questions to extract more detail. Ask empowering questions, not questions which will put the speaker on the defensive. Use encouraging feedback (speech, body language, facial expressions).


Do not take the shine off someone's story by immediately telling your own. For example if someone has been on holiday, ask them about the details, do not immediately start comparing with one of yours. Let the other person take the limelight and be happy for their joy. Feed their joy by being interested. Do not have a been-there done-that attitude.


Do not jump to conclusions or assume you know what the speaker is going to say next. We all have our unique thought processes and ways of expressing ourselves.


It is often useful to sometimes restate what the speaker has said in a slightly different form, to show them that you have got what they are saying. "So you think that we could.." or "That must have been exciting for you.."


You do not always have to give your opinion or advice on a topic. Often the speaker just wants to be understood or empathised with. Realise that they see the world differently from you and it may be better to keep quiet about how you would react in their situation.


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