Talking with people is easy, for the most part. Small talk can be difficult at times, but responding is easy. It’s simple for us to give our opinions, and our input. However, it is difficult to just be an active listener.
Listening seems easy, all you think you have to do is look at the person talking and nod along. Imagine you were having a conversation with your friend. They’re talking to you about their daily life. You nod along, and give your input when necessary. You feel like you listened to your friend. However, if you were given a review test on the conversation with your friend 15 minutes later, how well would you do? More than likely you wouldn’t do well.
We tend to only half listen. When talking to your friend, if the conversation is over the phone, were you just sitting down and listening? If the conversation was in person, were you listening idly? Chances are you weren’t 100% focused on the conversation.
We have a tendency to only listen to conversations in order to reply to the person. While people are talking to us, our minds have already wandered to a hundred other things.
Listening is not as simple as it seems. Here are a few tips on become a better listener:
- Take mental notes of the conversation
- Keep eye-contact
- Put the phone/technology away
- Summarize what was said
- Ask instead of assume
- Get fresh air
- Listen, don’t interrupt
- Be honest about your attention span
At first it may be difficult to focus on the conversation at hand, but like any skill, the more practice you have, the easier it becomes. Being a better listener will improve your relationships greatly.