Selective listening is a problem, where we listen only when we have to, what we need to learn is how to listen, even when we don’t want to. Listening means knowing what others have said and what they meant to say, and leaving the speakers comfortable with the feeling that they had their say.

Humans have the ability to think more than twice as fast as they talk, leaving the mind to wander whilst it is listening to someone. At the workplace, more and more multitasking is happening and interruptions abound, this too has impacted our listening skills quotient. Inability to listen well not only stretches meetings and discussions but also may hurt relationships and even damage careers. However, it is easy to improve your listening quotient, the starting point is to become aware of the ways you may tune others out.

Don’t be in a hurry to respond

One thing at a time and this stands true for listening too; control your mind while listening so that it does not wander towards responses. Continue to listen while the speaker speaks. When the speaker is done, take the time you need to frame your response. The reason being, when your mind is forming a response, it stops listening actively, thereby raising the chances of missing important information, which the speaker may be relaying.

Don’t Interrupt

It’s difficult, however you must resist the urge to interrupt. When the speaker finishes or pauses ask clarifying questions or make comments, which makes the speaker feel that you are connected. It is important that you look for something to validate about what you just heard because this can help the speaker know that you were actively listening. An often-used tactic in active listening is to respond by paraphrasing what you think you heard to ensure that you understood it correctly.

Keep the Speaker engaged

Keep the speaker engaged by showing that you understand. Use murmur and fillers like;“uh-huh” and “um-hmm” and nod. Using facial expressions like raising your eyebrows and you could say words such as “Really,” “Interesting,” as well as direct prompts like: “What did you do then?” and “What did she say?

When the tide is against you

When we are being criticized or being attacked personally our defense mechanism gets triggered and we more often than not, get in to a verbal duel. In a feedback session, your only task is to listen and make an endeavor to understand where the other person is coming from. Accepting or refuting comes in later, at this stage be calm and keep your mouth shut. Let the other side vent out, without eliciting any reaction from your side, feel free to ask clarifying questions but don’t start justifying. Remember listening does not mean you accept what they have said, it just means giving an ear to someone.

And last but not the least, during listening focus closely on the speaker, watching facial expressions and the tone of voice. Using these tips, you can learn to listen at a deeper level, not just for words but also for the feeling, meaning and intent behind them.

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