Do you have “skills?” What I mean is, what are you good at? Some of us are good at sports. Others can sing or play a musical instrument. Personally, I think I’m pretty good at writing and motivating others to be the best they can be. What’s your skill? We all have something we’re good at!
Some people discover their skill early in life and have worked for years at perfecting their craft. Then there are those who recently discovered skills they never knew they had.
Whatever our skill is, if we want to perfect it, we must practice it. If we don’t, we can get rusty or lose that skill altogether. We all have our own unique skills and talents, but there’s one skill that everyone should master, and that is the ability to listen.
The Forgotten Art Form
We’ve all been there: we’re having a conversation with a person who won’t let you get a word in edgewise. As soon as you start talking, they cut you off and talk over you. In most cases, they don’t mean any harm, they’re just excited and want to share something with you. Unfortunately, that “something” can’t wait and must be told immediately.
I must admit, I have done this once or twice without realizing it. However, I definitely notice when it’s done to me, and I start to tune them out. Am I the only one?
There’s nothing worse than dealing with a person who won’t give you a chance to talk. It gives the impression that what you have to say is unimportant and not worth listening to. In other words, they have to sharpen their listening skills.
Listening Skills: A Must Have
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” ― Bernard M. Baruch
Better relationships. There’s nothing worse than having a loved one who never lets you talk, or is always talking “at” you instead of “to” you. By allowing them to talk without interrupting, it can build a sense of comfort and security that can make the relationship even stronger.
Learn something new. It’s easy to tune out someone who has a difference in opinion or an opposing viewpoint. By listening to them, we could learn new ideas and concepts that we may have never considered before. We could also find a middle ground that both sides can agree on.
Improved patience. Many of us are always in a rush or can’t sit still. Actively listening to others can help increase our patience level as well as help us become more tolerant of other viewpoints.
Gain insight into the other person. The best way to learn about a person is to simply let them talk. What are their likes, dislikes and mannerisms? Let them talk and you will find out in due time. This can be of tremendous benefit in both business and personal relationships.
Are You a Good Listener?
Becoming a good listener takes practice. Here are the top ways to hone your listening skills:
- Remove distractions. Put down your cell phone and look at the person talking. Eye contact means they have your undivided attention.
- Give signals that you’re listening. In addition to eye contact, smiling and nodding your head is a great way to stay actively engaged. Depending on the conversation, verbal responses such as “yes” or “I understand” can be useful as well.
- Resist the urge to interrupt. Let them speak and wait patiently for an opportunity to chime in. Some people have a difficulty expressing themselves in 10 words or less. Give them time to make their point.
How we respond after a person finishes speaking is just as important as listening. Here are great ways to reinforce that you were listening:
- Ask a question. Ask them something about what they just said. This shows that not only were you listening, but you found the conversation interesting.
- Respond tactfully. When a person finishes talking, resist the urge to quickly change the subject before acknowledging what was said. This can give the impression that you were bored and wasn’t listening.
- Paraphrase. Depending on the conversation, repeating what was said is a great way to show you were paying attention. Asking an open ended question or adding to the conversation is a bonus:
- “They were driving down 4th Street? Where is 4th street?”
- “You want to buy a new television? So do I! I want a 55 inch!”
Practice strengthening your listening skills this week:
- Ask a loved one how their day was. Look them in the eye and ask questions when they finish speaking.
- Initiate a conversation with someone who has a different opinion than you on a given subject. Resist the urge to interrupt and try learn something that may benefit you.
- Practice repeating (or paraphrasing) what was said. This will force you to listen and pay attention closely.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” ― Ralph G. Nichols
Being an effective listener can benefit not only life but the person you’re talking to as well. Become a great listener today and everyone will thank you!
PS: In a recent podcast I give away a free copy of my book Tide Turners, where I talk about writing a book and the publishing industry. Here is the link to the Positive On Publishing podcast.