I have some hearing loss in my right ear as a result of blowing off too many fireworks when I was a kid. As I get older, I’ve learned some things about how I “listen”: When I’m in a crowded room or restaurant, I have to position myself close to someone so I can catch what they’re saying. When someone is talking to me from another room, I have to get up and go to them so I get the message. When there are multiple people talking at the same time, I have to focus on one person. I’ve learned that if I do these things, I’ll have a better time “hearing” what’s going on around me. I’m not deaf, but I have to compensate for the loss, and this takes work.
What I realize is that all of us are “deaf”. We really don’t listen very well, and it’s not because of a slight hearing loss. It’s because we either don’t really want to “hear”, or we’ve got too much other stuff going on in our lives.
We all need to work a little harder at being a better listener. Here are some simple tips on being a better listener:
#1) Maintain eye contact with the person talking. Don’t be distracted.
#2) Smile at and affirm the person talking that you ARE listening.
#3) Turn your phone off. No calls and no messages.
#4) Be sensitive to their body language. Are they relaxed or tense? Is this important to them or do they not care? Body language will tell you a lot.
#5) Listen first, then evaluate and process. Don’t start thinking about what you’re going to say until they are done.
#6) Don’t interrupt them while they’re talking except to ask questions and clarify.
#7) Repeat in your own words what you think the other person has said.
#8) If needed, jot some notes down so you remember what’s being said.
#9) Follow-up. After the conversation, either reply, give advice and counsel, or let them know that you’re going to process and then get back to them. Don’t ignore what was said.
If you do this, you’ll be known as someone who “is a great listener”. People will want to talk to you!