How to Listen to Really Understand
By Sandy Schroeder
Most of us talk with a lot of people every day. But how often do we really listen to understand what they are trying to say? Too often we are eager to reply but actually thinking of what we will say next. No wonder communication often suffers.
Solid relationships with friends, loved ones and co-workers depends on a real understanding of what is being said. Then communication may thrive.
One of my class speech books was entitled, Are You Listening? The professor graded us on our speeches and our ability to listen. After each speech we had to turn in a short summary of what was said.
Lifehack suggests smart ways to learn how to listen better.
Give your full attention – Put down your phone. Turn toward the person, and make eye contact. Watch their expressions. Absorb their words. Give them feedback. Ask questions.
Let them finish – You confirm their worst suspicions when you jump in before they are done. Hear them out. Make an effort to fully digest what they are saying.
Feed their message back – If this is an important conversation, it is wise to repeat the material back to confirm the content.You may have gotten the wrong impression, or missed an important point.
Stay on topic – When they finish, ask questions directly related to their message. This may allow both of you to reach a better understanding of the issue.
Keep an open mind – The comments may trigger instant opinions. Hold your fire. Skip quick judgments. Try to see where the speaker is coming from. The better framework you have, the clearer the message may be.
Trade positions – Watch what happens when you are the speaker. Do people really understand what you are saying, or do they quickly fire back a response?
Observe other listeners – Look around during a presentation. You may see people fidgeting or yawning. Others may be shuffling papers. A few may actually focus on the speaker as they attempt to get the message.
Arrive prepared – When you are listening, try to be rested and ready. If you are already tired, you may miss some of the message.
Practice every day – Leave reminders for yourself to listen better. Too often previous interactions, extra workloads, or outside issues interfere. Leave spaces between speakers to listen with a clear mind.