How to Become a Great Listener

Woman listening with hand to ear
Woman listening with hand to ear

Most people aren't great listeners. While someone is talking to them, they are more than likely thinking about what it is they are going to say when it is their turn. Sometimes, there is a game involved like: My Story is Better Than Your Story.

Because there are so few great listeners, if you develop this skill you will stand out from the crowd. People gravitate towards listeners and in the workplace, those who can do this well will excel. Building relationships with colleagues runs deeper and truer which allows for less friction.

Ever notice how great a listener a dog is.

They look you straight in the eye and pay attention to every word like everything matters. They tilt their heads when they are intrigued by something...like the change in your tone of voice. Ask questions and you might even get some kind of vocal response. Dogs are great listeners.

Below are five ways to become a great listener. Pick one or two to start and practice diligently on a daily basis. Soon they will be as natural to you as getting dressed. Once you've done that then pick a couple more. In no time you will master the skill of listening.

1. Ignore Distractions

Ever been talking to someone who can't stay focused on you as their eyes keep darting around the room? Can't help but wonder if they are looking for someone better to talk to. There isn't even any pretense that they are listening. You are prone to seeing this at networking events where someone has an agenda and it doesn't necessarily include you.

What does a good listener do? When speaking with someone be sure to engage fully and be there in the moment. If you are not interested, politely excuse yourself. Otherwise, make eye contact, nod appropriately and ask questions. Don't get distracted and rush through a conversation. Ignore what else is going on, stay focused and allow them to have their say.

2. Tame Your Emotions

While listening to a speaker, it would not be uncommon to experience some emotions stirred up by what he or she is saying. Sometimes our conversations can be controversial and cause reactions. It can be the topic itself or it may be a choice of particular words that will stir up some potentially negative feelings. When that happens listening might get stalled as it could be hard to stay tuned in.

It is important to remember that we can agree to disagree. Staying in the moment allows for a comprehensive exchange of ideas and points of view. Rational discussions can ensue when the emotions take a back seat and logic rules.

3. Need to Listen

Most of us have had to attend lectures during our formal education. These were very important and our ability to listen was directly connected to how well we did on our course. Educators will often tell us that when given a reason to listen, the listening becomes nearly 90% more effective. So what does that tell us?

It tells us that all our time invested in listening to someone should be considered a need. What need you might ask. Well, the need could be quite simply a matter of building a stronger more meaningful relationship. The need might be that the information received will improve your job performance. Whatever it is, consider that having a dialogue is important and skillful listening is needed.

4. Inspire Openness

It has often been asked of me how I learn so much about a person. The answer is a simple one. By showing a sincere interest and engaging in active listening, by making eye contact, nodding and asking questions, people are more apt to tell you a lot of information. Some of it might be personal and some of it might be more of a mentoring kind of discussion. Either way, it was a win for me.

When people feel that what they have to say has value, they are encouraged to share more. It is at such times that trust is built into the relationship as you prove you are trustworthy to receive such information. These exchanges will often make deep connections as similarities are discovered. Often mutual friends and acquaintances are uncovered. The more skillful the listening, the more openness is inspired.

5. Like Listening

Our formal education tends to focus more on the reading and writing of communications. Less time is spent on the speaking and listening components. That is so unfortunate as when we enter the world of work, the latter is what is mostly happening and we find ourselves less practiced.

Learning to like listening is a worthy goal. We always do things better when we like what we are doing. The same would be for listening. Instead of wanting to always be the speaker, if we instead concentrated on listening, we would learn so much more. Everyone has heard about having two ears and one mouth for a reason. We hear that and we laugh. Don't we realize the enormity of the truth that statement holds? I think not.

What do you suppose would happen if you decided to choose listening as a new self-development project? Do you think you would learn more? Have deeper and more meaningful relationships? Discover more about yourself and what you want to aspire to? Develop a great understanding of what makes others say and do what they do?

It could be some or all of the above. Why not develop a plan to become a better listener and see what happens? I'll bet you'll be surprised at the outcome.

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