Have you ever felt like someone was not really listening to you when you were speaking? Or have you caught yourself not paying attention when someone was talking to you? Listening is one of the most important skills we can possess, yet it’s often taken for granted. How many of us actually take the time to actively listen to those around us? Giving our full attention to those speaking to us has become a challenge in our fast-paced world where we’re constantly bombarded with information.
As International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited coaches, we at the International Coaching & Leadership Institute (ICLI) are blessed with the opportunity to support leaders in strengthening their interpersonal communication skills. Using effective communication skills like listening can decrease misinterpreted messages and misaligned expectations and lead to stronger relationships and a deeper understanding of others. Let’s talk about ways to sharpen our listening skills and make our communication more effective!
#1. Put Away Distractions
The first step is to eliminate distractions. When someone is talking to you, it’s important to give them your full attention. If you’re distracted, you’re not actively listening, and the other person will notice. Put your phone down, step away from your computer, and give your undivided attention to the person speaking. This not only shows that you value what they have to say, but it also helps you absorb the information more effectively.
#2. Focus on the Speaker
Next, it’s crucial to focus on the speaker. Nod your head, maintain eye contact, and give verbal cues like “go on”, “uh-huh”, or “really?” to show that you’re engaged. By doing this, you create an environment of trust and respect that encourages the speaker to share more.
#3. Ask Questions
Another tip is to ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking yes-or-no questions, ask questions that encourage the speaker to elaborate on their perspective. For example, instead of asking, “Did you have a good weekend?” try asking, “What did you do over the weekend?” This will help the speaker open up and share more about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. It will also show that you’re paying attention while at the same time helping you better understand what they are saying.
#4. Avoid Interrupting
Interrupting someone while they’re speaking can be frustrating and disrespectful. It also shows that you’re not actively listening. Let the speaker finish their thought before jumping in with your response, conclusions, or predictions you’ve formed. Allow them to be the star of their story while you take the front row in their audience. If you need to clarify something, wait until they have finished speaking before asking your question. By doing so, you show them that you’re actively listening and value what they have to say. If your desire to interject wins, pause, apologize, and ask them to continue.
#5. Practice Empathy
Empathy is another critical skill to practice when listening. Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes and ask yourself, “How would I feel in this situation?” This will help you better understand the speaker’s perspective and respond in a way that shows that you care. Use phrases like “I can imagine that must have been difficult” or “I understand why you feel that way” to show that you’re empathetic. This is especially important if they willingly make themselves vulnerable and share something private.
#6. Summarize What You’ve Heard
Finally, at the end of a conversation, summarize what you’ve heard. Repeat back what the speaker has said in your own words to ensure that you’ve understood their message correctly. This not only shows that you’ve been listening, but it also helps clarify any misunderstandings.
Guided by the ICF Core Competencies, we as coaches also recognize the importance of paying attention to the speaker’s emotions and behaviour in the conversation, their beliefs, and even background. You can incorporate that into your active listening too!
Improving your listening skills takes time and practice, but it can help you form stronger relationships, communicate more effectively, and gain a deeper understanding of those around you. By putting away distractions, focusing on the speaker, asking questions, avoiding interruptions, practicing empathy, and summarizing what you’ve heard, you can become a better listener and communicator. So next time you’re in a conversation, ask yourself, “Am I really listening?” Then try the above tips! Remember, it’s all about being present and showing that you care about what the other person has to say.
Visit us at trainingbyicli.com, attend our free webinars, or enroll in our programs for more support around personal development.
Written for Brainz Magazine. Read the original article here: