When we’re born we inherit certain skills. Namely, our five senses. Our ability to utilize these gifts is natural and fluent. Yet, to master them, we must be direct and specific in our focus.
Being great at any one thing takes steady effort and practice. It also takes knowledge, understanding and the desire to improve. But at times, we take for granted what we thinkwe know well when in actuality we may not. Take for instance, listening. Sure, it seems easy enough. All you have to do is open your ears and allow the words to enter your brain right? Wrong. We cannot expect to gather information if our brains are not fully tuned in and ready to interpret what is being said, both verbally and non-verbally. And here is where the good listeners are separated from the novice listeners. Being aware and prepared to listen is vital to becoming a better listener.
Research shows that typically people remember 25% – 40% of what is heard. This statistic sounds incredibly low given how much we think we’re listening. Cindy Allen-Stuckey, one of AccelaWork’s speakers and a senior consultant, draws our attention to this fact in her article Five Tips To Become a Better Listener. According to Stuckey, active listening has three basic steps to master:
- Hearing—just listening enough to catch what the speaker is saying. If you can repeat what has been said, you have heard the message.
- Understanding—taking what you heard and understanding it in your own way. This is when you ask questions of yourself and others.
- Judging—thinking about whether the message makes sense. This is where you ask yourself if you believe what you heard.
But this is just the beginning when it comes to active listening. There are plenty of factors involved to ensure you are receiving the message fully, interpreting it accurately and responding to it appropriately. Below are five tips to active listening that Stuckey shares in her article in Inside Indiana Business. Take a look and make some mental notes as these tips are fantastic!
- Attend closely to what’s being said and to the speaker’s non-verbals
Look at the speaker directly and give him your undivided attention. Make a conscious effort to not only “listen” to the speaker’s body language, but to also “focus” your mind and put aside your distracting thoughts.
- Watch your non-verbals
Non-verbals can encompass everything from facial expressions, to posture, and to where you sit at a table. Leaning forward, maintaining eye contact, and nodding are ways to show that you’re interested in the conversation. Your non-verbals are usually more telling than your verbals.
- Allow others to finish speaking before taking a turn
Interrupting frustrates a speaker and limits your full understanding of the message. Speakers appreciate having the chance to say everything they would like to say without being interrupted. When you interrupt, it looks like you aren’t listening, even if you are.
- Listen for main ideas
These are the most important points that the speaker want to get across. They may being with “My point is…” or “Here’s the most important part…’
- Repeat back what you’ve heard to give the speaker the opportunity to clarify the message.
Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing: “What I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying…” Also, makes sure you ask questions of the speaker to clarify what he means.
Growing up, many of us heard something like this: “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You should listen twice as much as you talk.” Despite its redundancy, this old saying strikes a chord in us as adults because it’s so true. Let it be the inspiration needed to continue to practice the art of active listening.