Improving Your Active Listening Skills – Part 3

This is part 3: Here are the next four traits to develop in your listening skills:

Minimize internal distractions – If you are finding that your own brain is chattering away when you are supposed to be listening, try to refocus your thoughts on the speaker, and keep doing this as often as required. Your ability to do this will improve with practice. It may help to behave as though your life depends on what they have to say, or you could try repeating their words mentally as they say them.

Be sincerely interested – The above two skills will be easier to master if you are genuinely interested in what the speaker has to say. As mentioned already, disinterest is a huge barrier to active listening, and conjuring interest may not be easy.

Have sympathy, feel empathy – These will allow you to take more of an interest. You can empathize by remembering a time when your emotions were on a par with the speaker’s. If you cannot recall such an occasion, you can sympathize through acceptance – accepting that they are a human being who requires understanding.

Be open-minded – Don’t prejudge the speaker. Even when they begin with a comment that rankles with you, wait until they have finished before making any decisions. Some people do not express themselves too well and may not mean exactly what they say. Comments they make subsequently make place a different perspective on their initial comments. The key is to be patient and wait. Do not assume, or allow preconceptions to wreck communications. The moment people start to disagree, the harder it becomes for both parties to actively listen.

Avoid “me” stories – These happen when a speaker says something that triggers a memory of something similar in your own experience. Then you are just waiting for them to shut up so you can share. This can be disastrous for communication because as soon as the speaker ends their sentence, you jump in and take over. “Me” stories normally begin with “Yeah, that’s just like me …” Phrased in such a way, the listener has justified their interjection by linking their circumstances with the speaker’s. However, such stories are little more than an opportunity to talk about your favorite subject: yourself. They may also end up taking the conversation so far off-topic that the original intent is lost. Keep your stories to yourself, unless the speaker specifically asks if you have experienced a similar situation because they genuinely want to know how you handled it.

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