Aug 03, 2010, 10:03 AM
Do you ever find yourself in a conversation with someone only to realize half way through the conversation, you have no idea what the other person is talking about? It's not because you don't care about what the person is saying, but rather your mind has drifted and you've stopped listening. It happens to all of us. With the busy lives that we lead, some times it is hard to truly listen. However, you can master the art of listening with just a little bit of awareness and practice.
Here are some steps you can take to becoming a better listener:
Give the speaker your undivided attention. This means stopping what you are doing (surfing the net, watching TV, sweeping the floor, thinking about what you are going to eat for dinner, etc.) Research has shown that "multi-tasking" is actually rapid cycling of attention which means none of the tasks are getting your full attention. You can't truly listen if you aren't 100% present in the moment.
Listen for understanding. Instead of thinking about what you are going to say next or how you disagree with the idea, put yourself in the speaker's shoes and focus on what the speaker is saying and listen fully with your ears and your heart.
Briefly summarize what the speaker has said. This lets the speaker know you've heard them and it also helps you remember what has been said. After the speaker has spoken for a few minutes, politely interrupt him or her and offer your summary of what you heard. Don't inject your own thoughts or feelings about what they talked about. Then, invite the speaker to continue. You may wind up doing this several times. After the person has finished, do your best to offer a total summary of what you heard them say.
Be aware of your body language. Almost 90% of the messages we communicate are nonverbal so make sure your body language is positive. Smiling, making eye contact, leaning in towards the speaker and not fidgeting are all ways to demonstrate listening.
Incorporate these simple steps into your life and see how they make a difference in your relationships. It doesn't take much and it can be one of the greatest gifts we give to one another.
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