Experts tell us that 60% of effective communication rests on our ability to listen. How good are your listening skills really? And why does listening play such a big part in our ability to communicate effectively?
Our ability to listen relates directly to our capacity to understand each other. Understanding is essential if we want to communicate effectively,otherwise we are like passing ships in the night. Listening is about hearing – without judgement – what another is telling us.
If you want to improve on your listening skills (and let’s face it, no matter how good they are we can all still improve), here are some things to be aware of when you next sit down for a conversation:
1) this might sound obvious, but first stop talking. This includes commenting in your head.
2) Free your mind to listen.
3) Focus your mind on what is being said. Don’t doodle, tap, shuffle papers or fidget. Just listen. Let them express their point of view, even if you don’t agree with it. Even better is to go that little bit further and put yourself in their shoes whilst they are speaking. Be prepared to see their side of the story.
4) Be patient. A pause doesn’t always mean that they have finished speaking.
5) make sure you also listen out for their tone of voice, facial expressions and gestures – to the message behind the words. Are they upset, angry, calm, confident, fidgety or ill at ease? This gives us the whole picture. After all only about 7% of communication is the actual words we speak.
Listening to others makes us more self-aware and expands our capacity to understand ourselves as well as each other. How is that possible? When we start consciously listening, we begin to be aware of, how often, we are only paying attention to part of what someone is saying. We may also begin to notice how we are constantly commenting on what it being said or filtering it through lens of our culture, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations or intentions. We may even find ourselves reacting with irritation or upset to what is being said.
In part 2 we will look at 5 boosts to listening and 5 ways to increase our capacity to listen.