Listening is essential to having productive conversations and relationships. So, how do we become better at that?
It feels like most people lose focus during conversations at some point. It’s strangely not easy to constantly be tuned in when we’re conversing with someone. Within seconds our brains start thinking about something else. This is what suddenly puts us into those awkward moments when we just nod and go “wow” and “you’re so right”, even though we weren’t really listening. However, it’s not just about hearing what the other person or persons are saying, it’s about a lot more than that. In order to improve our relationships with people, we have to become more active in listening.
Competing for Your Time
Weirdly, with technology evolving so quickly nowadays it feels like people’s attention spans are getting shorter. Different sites online are specifically designed to provide very short entertainment for a reason. Short videos that are endless in quantity make for more engagement, and that obviously leads to monetary gains. Nevertheless, that naturally does affect consumers in real life as well. It always feels like different applications and sites are always competing for your time and attention. So much so that when you’re even talking to someone in person there’s always a slight voice in the back of your head telling you to check your phone.
Either way, this all feeds into the reality that it’s not easy to listen. If you’re not listening then you can’t develop the necessary foundations for different relationships.
It’s Important to Listen
A lot of the time our prejudices and experiences navigate the way we communicate. That’s just natural of course but it also does affect our listening abilities. Preconceived notions stop us from growing at times. Trying to always win in conversations is unproductive, to say the least. The same goes for trying to sound smarter than the other person or persuade them to a point. It depends from situation to situation intertwined with your intentions but overall if you want a productive conversation you need to want to listen.
Realizing how important listening is can be a good first step towards growing as a person. Learning new things from fascinating conversations can be great for growth. Curiosity in conversations may lead to memorable times spent talking to interesting people. Hence, you should feel more inclined to be open to learning from anyone anywhere, within reason.
How to Better Listen
One of the first steps to becoming a better listener is to ask proper questions. Those questions need to be related to the topic of the conversation you’re having. Don’t just talk about yourself or be passive in listening. If afterward your voice resonates way more than the other person’s then you may have talked more than listened. Contrary to that though, by asking questions you’re directly switching the focus to the other person. It shows that you are a willing listener and want to know more about what they’re talking about.
Responding to what the other person is saying even if they’re not asking questions is also essential. Just mention if you agree or not with what they’re saying, relate it to an experience of yours, give your opinion on something related, or just express empathy. These are all just a few ways you can be active in listening.
Interrupting is another thing you need to be more aware of. Don’t just stop someone in their tracks by derailing the conversation into something else. You can chime in from time to time when you hear gaps in conversion but seldom does the other person appreciate you cutting them off entirely. Losing someone’s train of thought by shifting focus on you does not feel good for anyone involved.
Try not to stress too much about what you’re saying because feeling comfortable is key to a healthy conversation. Everything fully depends on the person you’re talking to, the situation, and what you’re talking about, but try to improve your listening. Learn to love hearing the other’s voice as much as your own. As anyone who loves to listen as much as they love to talk will tell you — you can only benefit from being a better listener.
Photo: Look Studio/Shutterstock
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