If you want to achieve success in life, it’s pretty much a given that communication is one of the most valuable skills you can have. There are many important aspects of communication, but today I’m going to focus on one of the most crucial things you can ever do if you want to be a good communicator:

Be a good listener

That’s right – most people are not even aware that ‘listening’ is a necessary part of the communication process, but the reality is; ‘listening’ is absolutely crucial if you want to become a good communicator, plus it can do wonders for honing your ‘persuasion’ skills.

Think about how great it feels when someone is really listening to you; even hanging on every word you say! It builds rapport, which is essential for relationship-building.

On the other hand, we all know people who are particularly bad listeners. There’s nothing more frustrating that being ‘talked at’ by someone who has no interest in what you’ve got to say and when you do finally get the chance to speak, is not really listening anyway! This is the fastest way to build a ‘bad relationship’!

Interestingly, we are taught at school to ‘speak up’ – yet the art of ‘listening’ often goes unnoticed! And I’m not talking about ‘shyness’ here. People often get ‘good listening’ confused with ‘being shy’ or ‘not having anything to say’. I’m talking about ‘Active Listening’. This means paying attention and then demonstrating your understanding of a conversation. At the end of the day, people just want to feel like they are understood.

So why are the majority of people such bad listeners?

One of the reasons is that we think much faster than we speak. Research has shown that we talk at between 120 and 150 words per minute, yet we think at the rate of 600 – 800 words per minute!

What this means is that because we are so much faster at ‘thinking’, when people talk to us, we often race ahead, lost in our own thoughts, instead of listening intently. Essentially the sheer ‘speed’ of our thoughts distracts us from ‘verbal’ speech.

Has this ever happened to you? Someone starts to tell you a story, you pay attention at first but by the time they get to the end you realize you’ve drifted off, started pondering what to have for dinner that night and have missed the end of the story? What follows is an awkward moment where you’re not reacting in an appropriate way, because you haven’t been listening properly. The result? The person talking feels like they are uninteresting and you feel confused and embarrassed. This is a classic example of poor listening.

Have you ever heard someone get criticized for listening too much? Imagine this for a moment:

“Wow I have just had enough of Sarah! All she does is listen and listen and listen! She never stops listening! I just wish she would stop listening and talk for a minute”

Or perhaps this is the more likely scenario:

“Janice never listens! All she does is talk at me over and over again! I feel like she never listens to a word I say!”

If you look at the most successful people on the planet they are all composed listeners. You don’t see them ‘talking over others’ or ‘drifting off’ mid-conversation. They are focused on what others are saying! This is because they understand the power of ‘listening’.

Simple Life Strategy: 7 Tips to Become an Exceptional Listener!

1. Don’t interrupt!  There’s nothing more annoying than being ‘interrupted’ by someone. Resist the urge to jump in when someone is talking.

2. Don’t finish other people’s sentences. While you may feel like you’re doing someone a favour by finishing their sentence for them, this can actually be very irritating. From a psychology perspective, research has shown that it’s disempowering, because you the listener, are ‘taking control’ of the speaker’s sentence. I have to say I can be guilty of this from time to time and I’m really working on controlling my urge to jump in!

3. Don’t talk over people. This demonstrates a real lack of respect. By talking over someone what you’re essentially saying is ‘I don’t care what you’re saying – what I’ve got to say is more important’.

4. Do paraphrase. If you want to demonstrate that you have understood what someone’s saying to you, then paraphrasing a great tool. By repeating back to someone what they have said, you are showing that not only did you listen to them, but you understood! Here’s an example:

“So John, what I’m hearing is that productivity is the number one objective for you right now and we need to find some solutions for you to achieve this?”

5. Listen actively. Make an effort to focus on ‘active listening’ rather than ‘passive listening’. The key difference is that active listening means you engage and respond to the other person based on what they have said, passive listening is simply the act of listening with no real response.

6. Minimize internal distractions. Attempt to quiet your thoughts and to just focus on what is being said. If you notice yourself drifting off, bring your attention back to the conversation.

7. Maintain eye contact. By looking the other person in the eye you are demonstrating a level of interest. This also keeps you focused and less impacted by distractions.

A final thought :

Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt!

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If you would like to improve your communication skills, contact me to find out more about how a coaching program can help!

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