Posted 23 May 2014 by Chris Farmer
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Five ways to improve your listening skills
An important part of your communication is your listening skills.
Listening is important because the vast majority of the information relating to your work comes to you through conversation and meetings with others. If you want to gain knowledge about what is going on, then you need to be a good listener.
And you need to be more than a good listener; you need to be good at grasping and understanding what is being said: and thirdly, you need to be able to remember the information for more than a few moments. Meaning; for some people, information goes in one ear and out of the other.
Therefore, we can say that listening skills is made up from three major subsets skills.
- Listening and being initially attentive to the message.
- Understanding and asking the right questions to confirm understanding and gaining additional information, or reasons why.
- Memory: you are able to retain what you hear in the memory and you are able to recall the information later, when needed.
Let us make a few notes on each one:
1. Listening and being initially attentive to the message
The biggest barrier to effective listening is inattentiveness.
Simply put, some people don't listen well because their mind is not on the job!
Some people sit in meetings, and although their body is present, their mind is wandering; or flat lining. They are either thinking of other things, or they are not really thinking at all, but are, rather, daydreaming and fantasising.
Good listening requires a certain level of mental engagement. It requires the wilful activation of your neo-cortex. You need to engage your mind and focus your attention on the message.
Point one to better listening is: focus your mind on the message.
Point two is: listen for their main point.
When people are speaking, they are usually trying to make a point.
But deciding what their point is is not always easy. It is not easy because many people ramble on without coming to the point. So, your mental task is to listen carefully to what the other person is saying and figure-out exactly which sentence, contains their main point.
And if you don't know, or cannot be sure what the others main point is, then ask him straight. Use this phrase:
"May I ask you: exactly what your main point is?"
"May I ask you: exactly what is the question that you want me to answer?"
2. Initial understanding or asking the right questions to confirm understanding: Gaining additional information or reasons why
Let us assume that now you know their main point. You now need to know the reasons they are offering to support their view.
You need to know how they justify their point. You need to ask them for the reasoning behind what they are saying. You need to know why they think that what they are saying is true.
If you accept people's points without understanding why, then you lay yourself open to be misled, or misinformed.
You need to understand the reasoning behind the point they made.
Point three for good listening is to discover the reasons behind his points, or the evidence to prove what the other is saying is true.
Here are two good questions that you might ask more frequently:
- "How do you know?"
- "On what evidence do you base that?"
Point three to better listening is: work to discover their reasons.
3. Memory: you are able to retain what you hear in the memory and you are able to recall the information later, when needed
Once you know what the other person is saying, and why he is saying it, you need to be able to retain that information in the memory.
If you cannot remember what you heard, then the whole conversation was a waste of your time.
The best way to remember what is being said is to actively try to visualise the information, or the story being told, in your mind's eye.
Your memory works much better when it is allied to your imagination.
All professional memory champions use methods that cause them to form mental images of the information to be memorised.
You need to perfect the same method: really try to visualise things, as you hear them.
For example: If you hear a name, visualise it.
If a man introduces himself as Mark, imagine taking a marker pen and making a big black mark across his forehead with the marker pen. Then you will remember that his name is Mark.
If you hear that there is trouble in the Ukraine, then think of a yellow crane toppling over.
Another example: If you hear that the next meeting will be held in the same office on the 12th of next month, then imagine a dozen eggs being smashed on the office table, making a huge mess. The act of making a quick mental image of a dozen smashed eggs on the table will help you to remember that the meeting will be on the 12th.
You can improve your memory by actively trying to make visual images of information.
In addition, the act of making visual images keeps the mind more engaged and keeps it "in the room".
Point four to better listening is: try hard to memorise what you are listening to.
Point five to better listening is: to capture the information you are hearing, form mental images in your imagination.
Five ways to improve your listening skills.
- Focus your mind on the message.
- Work to discover what is his, her, main point. Ask the other person: "May I ask you: exactly what your main point is?"
- Discover the reasons behind his points, or the evidence to prove what the other is saying is true. Ask; "How do you know?"
- Try hard to memorise what you are listening to.
- Try to capture the information you are hearing by forming vivid mental images in your imagination. A dozen eggs on the table means the meeting will be on the 12th.