The Greek philosopher Diogenes said “we have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less”.
Listening, really listening and not simply hearing, is a skill that asks much of the listener – to pay attention to the speaker, to clear the mind and, perhaps most importantly, to give the speaker the precious gift of your time.
What’s the use of listening?
Studies show we remember only about 25 to 50% of what is said to us in conversation. The value of good listening is vastly underrated as a skill and tool to improve your life and your relationships.
In your private life, good listening skills help your family members and friends to feel heard, respected and appreciated. In relationships, listening improves communication and brings about greater intimacy.
At work, listening prevents misunderstanding and thus saves money and time; it improves teamwork and team spirit, allows for better problem solving and leads to better relationships at all levels.
10 Steps to better listening
- Minimise outside distractions – switch of the television, radio or cell phone
- Face the speaker – in a way that is comfortable for both of you
- Maintain eye contact – without staring at the speaker
- Pay attention – also to what isn’t said, such as facial expressions and gestures
- Don’t interrupt – wait for the speaker to pause and then ask questions or clarify facts
- Keep an open mind – don’t offer counter arguments or dispute points made by the speaker
- Give feedback, even if just with a nod in agreement
- Try to imagine what the speaker is feeling
- Don’t offer advice – unless it is specifically requested. Assume the speaker just wants to talk
- Be open and honest when you respond, but also respectful.