1. Look at the speaker
The whole listening process begins with giving the other person your undivided attention.
Physically look at the speaker. Make him or her the center of your world at the moment. Show your willingness and eagerness to hear what he or she will say.
2. Don’t interrupt
Most people react badly to being interrupted. It makes them feel disrespected. It’s as rude to step on other people’s ideas as it is to step on their toes. So give people the time they need to express themselves. If you have the habit of interrupting, determine to make a change.
3. Focus on understanding
To increase your understanding of others as you listen, follow these guidelines offered by Eric Allenbaugh:
- Listen with a head-heart connection.
- Listen with the intent of understanding.
- Listen for the message and the message behind the message.
- Listen for both content and feelings.
- Listen with your eyes – your hearing will be improved.
- Listen for others’ interest, not just their position.
- Listen for what they are saying and not saying.
- Listen with empathy and acceptance.
- Listen for the areas where they are afraid and hurt.
- Listen as you would like to be listened to.
As you learn to put yourself in the other person’s place, your ability to understand will increase. And the greater your ability to understand, the better listener you will become.
4. Determine the need at the moment
People talk for so many different reasons: to receive comfort, to vent, to persuade, to inform, to be understood, to relieve nervousness, or to show off. Often people talk to you for reasons that don’t match your expectations.
Anytime you can determine the current need of the people you’re communicate with, you can put whatever they say into the appropriate context. And you will be better able to understand them.
A lot of men and women find themselves in conflict because they occasionally communicate at cross-purposes. They neglect to determine the need of the other person at the moment of interaction.
5. Check your emotions
Most people carry around emotional baggage that causes them to react to certain people or situations. Anytime you become highly emotional when listening to another person, check your emotions – especially if your reaction seems to be stronger than the situation warrants. You don’t want to make an unsuspecting person the recipient of your venting. Besides, even if your reactions are not due to an event from your past, you should always allow others to finish their points of view, ideas, or convictions before offering your own.
6. Suspend your judgment
Have you ever begun listening to another person tell a story and started to respond to it before he or she was finished? Just about everyone has. But the truth is that you can’t jump to conclusions and be a good listener at the same time. As you talk to others, wait to hear the whole story before you respond. If you don’t, you may miss the most important thing they intend to say.
7. Sum up at major intervals
A technique for active listening is to sum up what the other person says at major intervals. As the speaker finishes one subject, paraphrase his or her main points or ideas before going on to the next one, and verify that you have gotten the right message. Doing that reassures the person and helps you stay focused on what he or she is trying to communicate.
8. Ask questions for clarity
If you show people how much you care and ask in a nonthreatening way, you’ll be amazed by how much they’ll tell you.
9. Always make listening your priority
From “Becoming a person of influence” by John Maxwell and Jim Dornan.