Listening is definitely a skill you should cultivate – a recent study conducted at George Washington University shows that listening can influence up to 40% of a leader’s job performance, reads an article published on themuse.com. As effective listening is something that can be learned and mastered, here is what you have to work on in order to get there:
- Focus: stop focusing on what you have to say next and focus on what the other person is saying. Don’t just listen to the words, focus on their meaning.
- Put away your phone: a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone can be an instant turn off in a conversation. It is impossible to do both things well, so just focus all your energy on the conversation – it will make it more enjoyable and effective.
- Ask good questions: something as simple as a clarification question shows people you are listening and you care about what they are saying. Plus, you will gain respect and appreciation. Just remember that your questions should add to your understanding of the speaker’s words, and not deflect the conversation to another topic.
- Practice reflective listening: this is a listening strategy through which you paraphrase the meaning of what’s been said to make sure you’ve interpreted the speaker’s words correctly. Use your own words to show that you’ve absorbed the information, and give the speaker the opportunity to clarify what he or she meant to say.
- Use positive body language: use an enthusiastic tone, uncross your arms, maintain eye contact, lean towards the speaker – they are all signs of emotional intelligence and they can make a real difference in a conversation.
- Don’t pass judgment: be open-minded and people will approach you. Eliminate preconceived notions and judgment and try to see the world through other people’s eyes.
- Keep your mouth shut: unless you are checking for understanding or asking a probing question, you shouldn’t be speaking. Hijacking the conversation shows that you think you have something more important to say.