One of the most important skills in communication — and in business — is the ability to listen. Listening is critical because, after all, if you can’t listen, how can you respond in any meaningful way? Listening involves not just hearing what someone is saying, but really understanding what they mean.
And while the average person spends about 55% of their day listening, they only retain around 25% of what they hear. We could all benefit by getting more out of the time we spend listening.
If we don’t listen well, people may assume that we don’t really care about what they’re saying. We might become confused about what was said. We might not be able to respond appropriately.
So what can we do to become better listeners? The key is to hear, reflect, and test that you really understand what is being said to you.
Here are three simple steps that will help you become a better listener:
- Keep your focus
- Clear your mind of other thoughts.
- Make the conscious decision to focus only on the person talking.
- Keep eye contact.
- Remove distractions; don’t let others interrupt you.
- Encourage and acknowledge
- Let the person talking know that you have heard what they are saying (for example nod, or say “I hear you”)
- Ask clarifying questions (“can you give me more details?”)
- Encourage them to continue their thoughts (“and then…?”)
- Ensure understanding
- Don’t judge.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Check to make sure you have understood (“so you would like to leave tomorrow, is that right?”)
- Paraphrase to confirm understanding (“you believe we should leave tomorrow”)
- Ask close-ended questions to further confirm understanding: ones that can be answered by yes or no (“can we leave tomorrow?”)