Listening is a crucial part of communication and yet, despite its importance, it’s something a lot of us aren’t very good at.
Think of the last time you were speaking with a colleague only to suddenly realise they’ve stopped talking and seem to be waiting for a response. Or perhaps you interrupted them while they were still talking? It’s OK, we’ve all done it. But if we’re such “a social animal” who relies so much on communication, why are we so bad at listening and what can we do about it?
The most obvious barriers to listening are Environmental and tend to pop up because of noise and distractions, which can be remedied easily enough.
However, the more challenging barrier is Personal, or in other words, you. When we have a conversation, we actually spend most of the time we should be listening - thinking instead. We try to predict what the other person is going to say next or we think of how we want to respond, which means we can miss a lot of what’s being communicated to us.
You can avoid doing this by practising Active Listening.
Here’s what you need to do. Firstly, you need to make a conscious effort to pay attention - if you find that hard, try mentally repeating what the other person is saying as they say it. This should help reinforce their message.
And secondly, you should encourage the other person by showing them that you’re paying attention. This makes it easier for them to communicate their message and for you to receive it.
If you’re able, this can include things like keeping eye contact, having open body language, and nodding your head in understanding.
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