The most effective 10 ways to learn how to listen:1. Learn how to listen: Listen-really listen-to one person for one day. Choose one person you could relate to better. Commit to listening to them-not just hearing them-for one day. After each meeting, ask yourself: Did I use the CARESS techniques? Did I really make an effort to go beyond superficialities? Did I observe verbal, vocal, and visual clues? Did I note what was not being said as well as what was said? Once you've gotten into this habit of nudging yourself to listen better, extend this exercise to successive days, then to other acquaintances as well. Listening well is a gift you can give to others. It'll cost you nothing, but it may be invaluable to them. 2. Learn how to listen: Create a receptive listening environment. Turn off the TV. Hold your calls. Put away your spread sheets and silence your computer. When listening, forget about clipping your nails, crocheting, solving crossword puzzles, or snapping your chewing gum. Instead, try to provide a private, quiet, comfortable setting where you sit side by side with others without distractions. If that's not possible, perhaps suggest a later meeting in a more neutral, quieter environment. The point is to make your partner feel like you're there for him or her. Don't be like the boss who put a desk-sized model of a parking meter on his desk, then required employees to feed the meter-10 cents for every 10 minutes of conversation. What a signal he was sending out! 3. Learn how to listen: Don't talk when I'm interrupting. If someone else is interrupting, avoid the temptation to reply in kind. It'll just raise the level of acrimony and widen the gulf between you. Instead, be the one who shows restraint by listening to them, then quietly, calmly, taking up where you left off. "If you're talking, you aren't learning," President Lyndon Johnson used to say. And by showing more courtesy than your adversary, you will be quietly sending a message as to how you both ought to be acting. 4. Learn how to listen: Don't overdo it. Sometimes newcomers to the skill of listening can get carried away. They know they're supposed to have eye contact, so they'll stare so much the speaker will feel intimidated. Taught to nod their heads to show they're understanding, they'll start bobbing like sailboats on a rough sea. Having learned to project appropriate facial expressions while listening, they'll look as if they're suffering gastric distress. Eventually, the speaker figures out that the other person recently attended a "listening" seminar or read a book on the subject. But it all comes across as artificial. All good things, including listening, require moderation and suitable application. Too much exaggerated listening is just as bad as, if not worse than, none at all. 5. Learn how to listen: Practice mind-mapping. An excellent method for note taking is "mind-mapping." This free-form technique helps you take notes quickly without breaking the flow of the conversation. Essentially, you use a rough diagram to connect primary pieces of information, then break it into appropriate subtopics or details. It's extremely helpful and easy to use, and not at all like the old-fashioned Roman-numeral kind of outlining you probably learned in school. If you want to know more, I recommend an excellent book: Tony Buzan's The Mind Map Book. 6. Learn how to listen: Be alert to your body language. What you do with your eyes, face, hands, arms, legs, and posture sends out signals as to whether you are, or aren't, listening to and understanding what the other person is saying. For example, if you noticed someone you were talking to doing the following, what would you think?
- Glancing sideways
- Crossing arms on chest
- Looking at the ceiling
- Cleaning fingernails
- Cracking knuckles
- Jingling change or rattling keys
- Fidgeting in chair
- Looking into your eyes
- Smiling frequently
- Raising eyebrows periodically
- Grinning at appropriate moments
- Using expressive hand gestures when speaking
- Keeping eyes wide open
- Licking lips
- Tilting head
- Leaning toward you
- Appreciating that listening is as powerful as speech. What someone says to you is just as critical as what you have to say to them.
- Realizing that listening saves time and effort. Those who listen create fewer mistakes, fewer misunderstandings, and fewer false starts.
- Understanding that listening to everybody is important and worthwhile. Look for that something you can learn from each and every person you meet.
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About Dr. Tony Alessandra:
He earned his PhD in marketing (1976) & has authored 30+ books & 100+ audio/video programs. He was inducted into the NSA Speakers Hall of Fame (1985) & Top Sales World’s Hall of Fame (2010). As a faculty member here XTRAcredits Dr. Alessandra offers approved courses for continuing education professional development credits. He is also the Founder & CEO of Assessments24x7, a company that equips companies, coaches and trainers with dozens of assessments (DISC, Motivators, HVP, etc.) from one, easy-to-use online account.