Saturday, February 28, 2009

When you just don't really listen....

As I was browsing through the internet, I came across this interesting article on how to be an effective listener. For those who have difficulty in listening to others, here are some important tips to improve your listening skills :-

Everyone desires to be heard. When we listen to others, we validate their need to be acknowledged and understood. Deep down inside, we all want to know that we matter, that we are important. Don’t you find that meeting someone who shows interest in what we have to say, we tend to take a liking to them instantly?

The following are techniques to being an effective listener. I have learned these from communication courses, seminars and books on personal relationships. These are ones I’ve personally found to be useful when engaged in a conversation with other people:

1. Mirroring - mimic the other personal facial expressions and body positions. React as if you have become their mirror. Mirroring will allow you to feel what they are feeling, and have a deeper understanding of feelings carried with the words. People will begin to feel very comfortable being around you without consciously understanding why. After trying it myself, I learned that you can experience what others are feeling, but might find yourself on the same wavelength with similar thoughts and visions. Our physiology (facial expression, gesture and posture) can affect our internal state. Mirroring is just a technique to put yourself in a position (literally) to accept and internalize the meaning behind the words.

2. Focus On Them, Not Yourself - In conversations, I often lose my mind in my own thoughts. I get hung on what I’m going to say next or random thoughts like, ‘How do I look?’, ‘I’m hungry’, ‘What should I do tonight?’ The trick is to shift that attention and focus on the speaker. Give them your full attention. Be genuinely interested in them and what they have to say. Here’s a quote from Dale Carnegie extracted from principle 4 of “How to Win Friends and Influence People“
“Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.”

3. Active Listening - It’s easy to let your mind wander while someone is talking. It’s also natural to focus on how you plan to respond to the speaker rather than giving your full attention. Try active listening to shift focus on listening:

4. Repeat - Repeat what they are saying in your head, in your own words. Internalize the meaning of the words.

5. Summarize what you heard. A great listening technique involves rephrasing the speaker’s words and repeating them back to them. This verifies that you understood what the speaker said, and also gives the speaker a chance to clarify their thoughts. You can start the sentence with “So what I’m hearing you say is” or “Are you saying that“

6. Look for the message - Look for keywords. Don’t just listen with your ears, but also with your heart and soul. Connect with them. There are so much more said than just words alone. Try to ask yourself, What is their point? Where are they coming from? What do they need? What they are saying in words is just an expression, but there’s always an underlying message. Look for that core message.

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