I’m good at listening to people, and I want to share with you some tips on how to listen well.
The key takeaway can be summarized briefly, though. I’d say it’s all about your intention when it comes to listening to people well. For me, my intention is to make deeper connections with people I’m talking with. This is the basis of what I do when I listen to others.
Here’s some specific things I do when I listen to people.
1. Trying to understand what they are saying
You might think you know what people are saying, but what they say (or to be more precise, your understanding of what they say) doesn’t necessarily match with what they mean.
You can ask questions to make sure you understand what they are saying.
2. Being open to change your assumptions if these assumptions are wrong
We all make assumptions, and that’s OK. The thing is, you need to understand your assumptions may be wrong and be ready to correct them when they are wrong.
Be aware of your own assumptions.
3. Explicitly acknowledging they can say anything and talk about anything
I say this often when I ask people what they want to do. A very typical scenario is… I ask this question, and they say they don’t know. But usually they do know, and they just feel embarrassed to talk about what they want to do. Let them know it’s OK to say anything and talk about anything they want to talk about.
Another tip in relation to this is to become a person who can keep secrets and doesn’t speak ill of others. Why? Because who wants to talk about something personal if the listener is likely to spread it to everyone else?
4. Looking into their eyes
Because listening is done not only with your ears, but also with your eyes. Your body language is important as well… listen with your whole body!
5. Being present
If you focus on listening to the person you are talking with and trying to understand what s/he is saying, you are more likely to be present than when you are thinking about how you are going to interrupt the speaker or something totally different.
6. Postponing evaluative judgments
Especially moral judgments like good and bad. Listen first and then make evaluative judgments. Not the other way around.
7. Assuming the speaker is reasonable
In other words, if we are going to make assumptions about the speaker consciously or unconsciously, why don’t we make the best assumptions possible about that speaker and operate upon these assumptions?
8. Letting them shine
There are topics that people love talking about and that help them shine. Discover what they are. Let them talk about these topics. Let them shine.
9. Being at ease and delighted
Breathe well and enjoy the conversation.
10. Being curious
How do you enjoy the conversation? By being curious about the person you are talking with. By getting to know him or her.
By the way, you might not be interested in what they love talking about. For example, if I talk about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with you, you might get bored to death. But notice that I’m talking about my passion and it happens to be Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. You can guide that talk from something specific (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) from something general (passion), and connect your interests with their interests.
I do these things without thinking much about them. Also, I don’t think I do all of them with everyone. When I don’t feel like listening, I don’t.
These are what I do and they may not work for you. I hope these tips can be helpful if you feel like you could improve your listening skills.
What do you say?