In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, information is abundant, and so many conversations are happening simultaneously, digitally, and in real life. This is why effective listening has gained paramount importance so that crucial details in conversational exchanges don’t slip through the cracks.
Effective listening has multifold benefits:
- It shows you care
- It makes you a better communicator.
- It fosters deeper and meaningful relationships.
- It resolves conflicts
Genuinely listening to what’s being said can help you in various spheres of life. As a student, paying attention in class ensures you grasp concepts clearly and extract maximum value from your education. In the workplace, carefully listening to your manager’s instructions can mean the difference between doing a good job and a great job. Often, it can save you from misunderstanding and making a mess of your task or assignment.
Useful Tips to Improve Effective Listening Skills
1. Keep Eye Contact
Imagine this – your partner is talking to you, but you keep looking out the window or into the digital abyss that is your mobile phone. How rude would that seem? How worthless would the speaker feel? It is basic social etiquette to face your partner and look them in the eyes while indulging in a conversation with them. Your undivided attention makes the speaker feel that s/he’s being truly heard and s/he says matters.
Turning to face the speaker is one of the easiest ways to follow the conversation and become an effective listener. Put aside all distractions and do your partner the courtesy of maintaining eye contact while talking to them. Even if their gaze shifts every now and again, you stay focused.
2. Try To Visualize
Creating mental models of the key points being put forth is a great way to wrap your head around the conversation’s gist. If you can paint a vivid picture, you will understand the conversation better and retain it with high fidelity for longer.
Use mnemonic devices, make word associations, link stuff to concepts you already know, memorise phrases and keywords, and you’re well on your way to being an active listener. This trick can come especially handy if you’re a student and trying to recollect important fundas. Stay alert and let your imagination run wild.
3. Don’t Butt In Randomly
What many of us do is let our minds wander during a conversation. In other words, we zone out and then try to zone back in. But when we try to hop back on the train of conversation, we inadvertently interrupt the speaker, which breaks the flow of the conversation and derails the speaker’s train of thought. This can be a frustrating experience and spoils the throughput of the conversation.
Instead, please wait for the speaker to complete their point and then interject with your question or seek clarification. For example, if you’ve enrolled for an online course, let the teacher finish their lesson and then raise your hand to ask any query/doubt you might have.
Some of us have the habit of rehearsing what we say next. We focus on planning our words and how we put them across instead of tuning in. So when we do rejoin the conversation, we tend to speak on top of the speaker. Avoid this; don’t try to pre-empt. Let the flow of the conversation guide your thoughts.
4. Ask To Understand, Not To Show Off
We’ve all come across that one person in class who asks a question just to flaunt his knowledge and not because s/he’s unaware or confused. Don’t be this person. Interrupt the speaker to ask a question only if something they said went over your head.
Feel free to say stuff like “Hold on, I’m not sure I follow. Come again?” or “Back up, didn’t get you. Can you rephrase what you said?” or the classic “Wait, sorry to interrupt but can you explain this to me like I’m 5?”.
5. Give Feedback
Your facial expression is a dead giveaway of the amount of interest you have in the conversation. Get your body language right while listening – nodding, shaking the head, smiling are all non-verbal cues that fill the speaker with confidence that you’re listening with rapt attention. Show that you’re wired in by chiming in with periodic “Hmm’s” or “Gotcha’s”.
If you agree with what the speaker said wholeheartedly, insert a well-timed “Yep, that makes total sense.” If you’re unsure about what the speaker meant, say “Just to be clear…” and paraphrase the content to ensure both of you are on the same page. All these small, affirmative feedback is proof of effective listening and improves the quality of conversation manifold.
6. Get Adept At Mirroring
Consciously try to replicate the speaker’s expressions, body language, and other non-verbal cues. Try to match their energy by smiling when they’re smiling or giving an understanding nod when their tone is one of frustration. Mirroring subconsciously conveys to them that you are engaged and not detached from the conversation and is a great way to show that you are fully hooked on their words.
The world is moving at a breakneck speed, and attention spans are dwindling. Amid this backdrop, sharpening your effective listening skills can help develop an edge over your peers and set yourself apart at work or in academics.
Practise effective listening with the help of the steps above while learning a higher education course on upGrad. Get an MBA degree from esteemed universities, or get certifications in useful subjects like Data Science, Marketing, Sales, and more, which are all important from the career point of view.