The best communicators are the best listeners, and the best conversationalists are also the best listeners, partly because they have been so attentive. Many complaints and conflicts arise because someone feels they have not been listened to properly. The simplest way to make others feel valued and appreciated is to actively listen to them.
Here are 12 common blocks to listening:
Comparing yourself to the speaker and your experience/knowledge etc. with theirs.
Trying to figure out what the speaker really means, rather than listening to what they are actually saying.
Rehearsing in your own mind what you're going to say as soon as you get the chance.
Only listening for certain things, ignoring the rest and letting your mind wander if you don't hear what you want or expect.
Judging what the speaker says, rather than listening in an open non-judgemental way.
Only half listening, then allowing your own related thoughts to take you into a daydream.
Identifying with what they say and referring it back to your own experience e.g. "You think that was bad, wait till you hear what happened to me!"
You quickly spot the problem that the speaker is relating and you want to jump in and tell them how to put it right.
Jumping into the conversation as soon as you disagree with what you hear.
You don't listen to anyone else because you are already right and don't want to be challenged on anything.
You suddenly changing subject when you get bored or uncomfortable with the topic.
Responding by saying whatever you think the speaker wants to hear
If you want to enhance your listening skills, it requires conscious effort. Select one or two of the blocks to listening and consciously be aware of when you slip into them. Awareness is of course the first step, and be prepared to feel awkward at first. But stick with it - remember, the price of perserverence is always less than the pain of regret!
With listening and communication skills in general, the more you resist the temptation to impress in the other person’s eyes, the more you will actually shine, and be appreciated by them. Don't you feel valued when someone gives YOU their undivided attention?
Source: Adapted from "Messages" by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis & Patrick Fanning