Sustained listening requires ongoing practice, even for the best listeners.
Now, it’s easy enough to say you want to be a better listener; following through and actually being better will require some dedication and effort. Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
1. Focus on the speaker.
We live in a world that constantly begs for attention in a multitude of directions. Between the technology that’s constantly at our side, the never-ending stream of priorities circulating through our brains, and a parade of people wanting us as their audience, it’s incredibly hard to concentrate on just one person without concerted effort. Aligning your body can help. Make sure you’re facing the individual who is speaking, look them in the eyes, and don’t be afraid to lean in so you can hear every detail.
2. Listen a little bit at a time.
Sometimes a person will give you so much information at once that it can be challenging to process and remember everything they’re saying, and you end up missing a lot in just trying to keep up. See if you can stop your speaker after just one or two key points. Repeat what they’ve said back to them to see if you’ve heard correctly. Just like when studying for a test, repeating information can help you remember more accurately.
3. Ask relevant questions.
When others are willing to share information with you, it’s your job to keep the flow going so you get the most out of what they’re saying. People have a tendency to be superficial at first when speaking, but if you ask related questions that go a little below the surface, you’ll learn much more about the situation and gain insights that give you a deeper understanding of how that information might be used.
As you work towards honing your listening skills this year, these first steps will put you on the right track, but sustained listening requires ongoing practice, even for the best listeners. For more insights into mastering the skill of listening, check out these Bell Leadership Resources, available on our website. And for a deeper dive into listening as well as other Advanced Communication skills, register for an upcoming program with our expert Bell Leadership training team.