In today's high-tech, high-speed, high-stress world, communication is more important than ever, yet we seem to devote less and less time to really listening to one another. Genuine listening has become a rare gift—the gift of time. It helps build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts, and improve accuracy.
Here are tips to help you develop effective listening skills.
Step 1: Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
Talking to someone while they scan the room or study a computer screen is like trying to hit a moving target. If the person were your child you might demand, "Look at me when I'm talking to you," but that's not the sort of thing we say to a lover, friend or colleague. In most Western cultures, eye contact is considered a basic ingredient of effective communication. When we talk, we look each other in the eye.
Do your conversational partners the courtesy of turning to face them. Put aside papers, books, phone and other distractions. Look at them, even if they don't look at you. Excuse the other guy, but stay focused yourself.
Step 2: Be attentive, but relaxed.
Now that you've made eye contact, relax. You don't have to stare fixedly at the other person. You can look away now and then and carry on like a normal person. The important thing is to be attentive. The dictionary says that to "attend" another person means to be present, give attention, remain ready to serve, etc. Mentally screen out distractions, like background activity and noise. In addition, try not to focus on the speaker's accent or speech mannerisms to the point where they become distractions.
Source: Dianne Schilling (MSc in Counselling and founding partner of WomensMedia).
Photo credit: LinkedIn