So, why don't we listen?
We think we know the answer or the punch line or the end of the story. So, we just nod but really we're not paying attention. Again, we've predicted the outcome. How painful it is when someone asks us a question about what he or she just said and we have to ask them to repeat it.
Second, we're too busy thinking of what we're going to say next. We're more concerned with what we have to say than truly absorbing the other person's message.
Third, we're distracted by something else or we're too busy daydreaming. Again, we're not paying attention because what's going on inside our brain is more entertaining or urgent then what the other person is saying.
How do we "tune in" so that we listen more actively?
- Listen with respect. Apply the golden rule in that you listen to others as you would want to be listened to. You show the other person they matter, and that usually causes them to respect you a bit more.
- Listen with both ears. It's easy to be distracted by what else is going on in the room, another conversation, what's on your computer screen or the TV. Focus on one conversation, the one you're having right now.
- Listen between the lines. Listen for what the other person is really saying, or not saying. What extra detail can you pull out of the conversation? Even something as basic as, "So then what happened?" or "Wow, that must have made you laugh," can elicit more information and keep you engaged.
Listening is a skill. If it's a skill, you can improve. You can become a better listener.
Here's where it counts: Everyone wants to know what they say matters. So, it's one of the best ways to improve relationships. Others will appreciate you more simply because you paid attention.
How about you? How have you learned to listen more effectively?
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