Up your Listening game

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Today, we feature a rather casual topic that could easily go unnoticed as vital in communication. We take a look into the topic of listening for purposes of becoming better listeners during discussions. While listening is a major aspect of communication, only a few have taken time to master this skill, with majority still struggling with it unknowingly and approach conversations with a rather suggestions and hints in mind waiting to confirm whatever is in their own minds, they end up either hearing what they want to hear or get destructed with their own thought along the way sometimes even hijack the whole conversation to a direction of their own interest.

For the sake of better understanding of this topic, we begin by defining the term “Listening”: This is an active process that involves focusing on what is said without allowing our own thoughts to intrude, it gives the listener the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages without which messages are easily misinterpreted.

 Listening I believe is the missing half part required in communication, absolutely necessary but often overlooked or taken for granted.

In this highly technological and high speed world we refer to as “age of communication”, a lot goes unheard, people seem to devote less and less time to really listen to one another but rather attend to the rather resourceful but destructive gadgets around our lives.

Genuine listening is a key skill and a rather powerful tool one can use around interactions to becoming a good communicator as well as experience a different world all together.

By this I don’t only mean when being spoken to, but also when you are the speaker. The reason I say this is; if you can’t listen to yourself when speaking, it is likely the other person isn’t as well, and that compromises the quality of the whole conversation.

Below, ave gathered a set of skills to assist you improve our listening skills.

  1. Focus on the speaker. You need pay attention to the speaker and even pay extra attention and observe their body language which make of communication only this time through nonverbal ques, these accompany verbal speech and should always complement each other. Understand the emotions behind the words, there are always tones of unsaid words if you know how and where to look. A good listener will listen not only to what is being said, but also to what is left unsaid.

Effective listening therefore involves observing body language and noticing inconsistencies between verbal and non-verbal messages, as well as just what is being said at any given moment.

While at it, listen to the tone of the voice to help you pick up the overall emphasis of what is being said.

  1. Avoid interrupting. It’s quite common to have people interrupt in the middle of a conversation, those who seem to have perfected this bad communication mistake just never seem to be able to wait until you finish your sentence, before you finish your sentence they jump in to correct you or even complete it for you, this can be very frustrating and if allowed might even stop one from speaking at all. This however is a brain overshoot as it has potential to comprehend up to 600 words per minute as compared to what the mouth can speak of between 100 to 150 words per minute, therefore under utilizing the brain making it difficult to keep undivided attention within the conversation. However, there are simple tricks out there we can use to keep us from interrupting conversation, most common keeping your mouth closed during a conversation or the placing of one’s index finger gently on the lip which translates to the keenness gesture used by many who’ve perfected the art.

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  1. Make notes while listening, now that we know that part of our brain remains unutilized while listening, we can give it more work within the same context to keep it even more engrossed by taking notes in the same engagement, this helps reduce the urge to engage the whole mind while someone speaks. Clarifications captured can be communicated when it’s your turn to talk.
  2. Focus your thought more on listening rather than talking, this can have a drastic impact on success in your communication.
  3. Be patient and stay focused. Don’t become irritated or let the person’s habits or mannerisms take your concentration away from what is being said.
  4. Do not approach conversations with a preset assumption, prejudice or even stereotype mindset, this is because you miss completely that which is being said, any of the above mindsets resorts to picking specific words that trigger the most of our preloaded emotion, making our brains give less focus to the rest of the words we find less meaningful.
  5. Show your interest. You need to show interest whenever you are having a conversation, nod and smile occasionally when applicable and you can, form slight face folds to show need for clarity, your posture needs to be open, easy and inviting with both feet facing the speaker if the conversation occurs while standing, keep encouraging the speaker with verbal comments like yes, right, really or non-words like mghhh and uh huh to keep them knowing you are following as well as stay in the present!
  6. When listening to someone, the spotlight should be cast on them and not on you, you need to put yourself in their shoes, tune into their wavelengths, listen to their frame of reference and not yours, that’s not easy at all but get you results in understanding your counterpart.
  1. One of the most difficult balances is the skill to link pieces of information to reveal the ideas behind the words, try not to dwell on the mistakes because you will miss the message

If listening to the other person is your goal and intention, then all this will come naturally, it might however need a little practice to derive the most benefit you can from a conversation.

Effective listening requires concentration and the use of your other senses – not just hearing the words spoken.

By any chance when you are talking to someone who happens to be rather fast for you to understand, which of the below would you rather do when faced with such.

  1. Look scared
  2. Nod and pretend you understand
  3. Tell them you don’t understand
  4. Say you don’t understand and you want them to write it down.

If C or D is what you chose, you are correct however D employs a perspective to give the communication a much better chance to happen.

                The very first thing one is supposed to do when they have not understood something is indicate it, there is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. We all do have times we don’t understand something and it’s important to let these persons know when it occurs by simply saying either I didn’t catch that or I do not understand. This will put to task our genuine self even in unfamiliar grounds something that doesn’t come easy and demands for honesty, another thing that can sometimes prove challenging.

                Second is asking them to put it in a way we understand, it could mean slowing down, or even writing it down if the speaker presents with an accent challenge by simply saying, could you please write it down or please repeat that slowly.

Next is to check meaning to ensure you have understood clearly you can do that by simply repeating back say by asking “so what you are saying is…” then repeat what they said or just go ahead and confirm by saying “I understand you mean………”

Finally, it is important not to jump to conclusions about what you see and hear. You should always seek clarification to ensure that your understanding is correct.

More tips to help you become a better listener are

                -Have the speaker finish talking first and allow your mind to follow, if by any chance there are cases for disruption say like lies, pick and note them down and allow the speaker to finish and if by chance you find yourself interfering, apologize and let the person continue. This skill allows you to pick the unsaid as well as the said or as often put allows you to listen to the message in the message.

                -Maintain eye contact, this is because vision complements verbal for clarity as well as assures the other party of your attention and keenness. Note that you can spot a listener who isn’t keen when you speak.

                -Be mentally present, this means your mind should empty of past or future destructive thoughts, allow your mind to load the events of the minute as they occur.

                -Wait two seconds before you begin to respond

                -When you are playing the role of the listener, please don’t change the subject, you end up not knowing what the other party had to say.

                -When you have to ask questions, phrase them in a way that is not open ended, Most of them begin with What, how, why, when and not those that will only require yes or no answers. Instead of asking “has it been done” ask how has the task been carried out.

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen.  Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention

. – Rachel Naomi Remen

Good developed listening skills should see benefits such as increased productivity, faster progress toward achieving goals, better problem solving ability and have healthier interpersonal relationships all round their lives. By developing listening skills, you make your communication counterpart feel more alive, more trusted and stronger both in connection and relationship.

A good listener creates a conducive communication environment where everyone feels safe to express ideas, opinions and feelings with openness and ease. Mastering the skill of listening illustrates a caring attitude as a boss in the company. A good percentage of employees respond positively to an open-door policy in which they know you will listen intently and do your best to resolve issues. The level of trust rises between yourself and your workers and performance problems decrease. 

It helps relieve negative emotions especially when someone just needs to be heard and has that effect that can help calm them down

Poor listening skills jeopardizes working relationship with employees, spouses, children including the societies we live in.

If practiced at work, workers get to know the times they are not being heard and this decreases their sense of belonging in an establishment, building resentment and at the same time motivate them to look for other opportunities elsewhere.

Active listening can rather be difficult and more tiring than talking itself. We think of negotiation being about talking but forget the vital part about listening, successful negotiators listen far much more than they talk.

Like they say, we are given two ears and one mouth for a reason, to listen twice as much as we speak!

Listening is key and lets you understand the mind of the speaker, if you are to convince someone, wouldn’t you want first to know where their minds are?

When you learn to listen, others learn to listen to you.

Listening costs us nothing, but delivers understanding of the situation to the listener.

Listening needs to be practiced every single day.

Listening allows the speaker to communicate thoughts and emotions only they have at that particular time.

You can never represent better the content inside someone else, but can get to relate with them when you listen to what they are saying.

Listening is not the same as hearing, it is more tasking and a rather active task as compared to hearing.

If you’ve ever thought a stammer thinks with a stammer, you are guilty of practicing poor listening skills.

 

Frank

Frank Odhiambo

Mind Grid Perspectives

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