effective listening skills
How many times have you heard your children say “You never listen to me!” I’m sure the statement provokes anger and annoyance. But take time to consider: do you have effective listening skills? Many parents have the impression that when they hear a message they are already hearing it. But listening is actually a more complicated process than mere attention.
What is effective listening skill? In short, effective listening implies the suspension of all judgement, bias and stereotype, in order to appreciate a message in the way the sender wants it to be understood. Therefore, listening is about the speaker, not the listener! It’s giving the person sending the message her moment, putting her in the spotlight and letting her say whatever she wants to say.
How do you know if you are a good listener? Consider the following:
Do you tend to multitask when you listen?
We often say that we are listening, but in reality we are busy with other things. Asking our children how they did in school while reading the newspaper is a sign of poor listening skills. Entertaining a client, while wondering what gift to send her boss for her birthday, guarantees ineffective listening. In the same way, attending a seminar-workshop while surfing the web with a mobile phone demonstrates a lack of effective listening skills.
Second, do you let the speaker finish sharing before jumping to conclusions?
Consciously or unconsciously, we may be in the habit of always trying to be right. We can override anything we hear that doesn’t agree with our own point of view, or use selective listening. Selective listening is when we choose only the things that interest us in an exchange and throw the rest away.
So if you’re prone to interrupting a speaker, either explicitly or just in your mind, you may need to improve your listening skills.
Here’s an example:
Person A: I want to request a room transfer. This one is so close to the construction site; the noise prevents me from getting a good night sleep!
Person B: Do you know what works for a good night’s sleep? Milk! My mother always makes me drink milk when I have trouble sleeping.
Notice how Person B just heard the word “sleep” and pretty much ignores the rest? This is an example of ineffective listening because the speaker is interested in getting a new room, not advice on how to sleep!
You can probably relate to Person B; we’re prone to injecting irrelevant information into a discussion simply because, at the time, it seemed like the right thing to say. But if we only focus on one message, we will develop effective listening skills.
Listening is an art. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not a spontaneous, automatic response, although some personality types are better listeners than others. Instead, it takes effort and deliberate focus. But take heart if you think you still have a long way to go when it comes to having effective listening skills. Everyone gets better with practice, and there’s no better time to start than now!