Listening can be difficult. We all have our interests, and when something falls outside of those, it can be hard to focus on it. However, listening is a key skill in almost every aspect of life. It certainly matters in relationship-building. I’m sure you’ve experienced a situation where you were explaining something, and realized halfway that the person you were speaking to wasn’t listening, and it totally squashed any drive you had to keep talking. You can become dispassionate about topics you were once thrilled to delve into if no one cares enough to listen. I’m sure you don’t want others to feel that way, either. And, on the flip side, I’m sure you’ve also discovered that when you really listen, you find new information you wouldn’t have considered without hearing it from someone else’s unique perspective.
But most of us don’t listen well naturally. We have to learn how to listen effectively, even in situations where it can be hard to do so. Most people think at a rate far faster than they can speak, so only a part of our brain will be focused on a conversation, and the rest may wander off. The world is quickly growing noisier and noisier, with the internet and smartphones, and with every passing day more and more distractions are heaped on our plates. You can learn more here, if you’re curious…
But beyond distractions, there are two big culprits that get in the way of effective listening. First, instead of really listening, we’re too busy getting ready to respond. And second, instead of really listening, we’re too busy reacting. Been there?
Let me offer two simple tips for getting better at listening... You know me, I’m always up for a memorable acronym, even if it messes with spelling, so here goes…
Listen without preparing to respond.
It’s EESY, so long as we remember these little tidbits.
- Ears (I have 2, am I using both to listen, or is there something else I’m listening out for? Am I using my ears twice as much as my mouth?) You can check out this blog for more on listening ears.
- Eyes (Am I making eye contact? It can be hard to focus on you if my eyes wander to something else.)
- Speak (Am I responding appropriately, whether that be with confirming questions, comments and interjections at suitable moments, or understanding that sometimes it is best to say nothing at all?)
- You (Are my mannerisms and/or words demonstrating my interest, and showing to you how invested I am, making sure you understand that I am listening to you communicate, and that this is about you, not me?)
Listen without reacting in the moment.
Here’s your PPIE, and how to eat it.
We only want to interject when it’s appropriate, and not throw off our conversation partner with an inappropriate reaction at a bad time.
- Puff (Remember to breathe, and by controlling my breathing, I won’t be shouting out unnecessary interjections.)
- Pay Attention (Make note of my nonverbals as well as their words. If I’m really taking in what they’re saying, and I know them well enough, I’ll know when they’re done talking and when it isn’t a good time to interject.)
- Internalize your common purpose (Remember, a conversation is a two-way street. Just like I’m there to listen, so is whoever I’m talking to. Keeping our common purpose keeps us on the same page.)
- Evade (If I can’t focus, wait until the appropriate moment, and ask for a little break. Not everyone has the ability to stay focused for long periods of time, and that’s perfectly fine! Ask for a little time to step back, re-center, and come back refreshed and ready to continue the conversation.)
These two simple tips can help us all become better listeners, because it’s not only an important skill, it’s also how we show people we care! What tips do you have for better listening?