Effective listening is a tool that can benefit all facets of daily life. Utah State University says effective listening is a process. You must be able to really listen and comprehend what is being said and then be able to relate to how it pertains to you and how you might be able use it in the future. Listening can make interpersonal relationships more fulfilling and make an employee more valuable to the employer.
Listen to 1 Person for 1 Day
Tony Alessandra, Ph.D., suggests on his website that one effective listening exercise is to commit to really listening, not just hearing, what one person is saying for one day. After each conversation, you should mentally evaluate whether the person was listened to or just heard. As this becomes easier, Alessandra suggests expanding this exercise to successive days.
Become an Active Listener
Mind Tools, the career website, says there are five main elements to active listening. You must pay attention, show the speaker he is being heard through a smile or facial expression, provide feedback to the speaker, put off judgment and interruptions and offer the speaker appropriate responses. Staying alert and maintaining eye contact is one method to ensure active listening, according to the Academic Resource Center at Utah State University.
Conversations in today’s breakneck society are often merely successive interruptions, Alessandra says. You should avoid the temptation to interrupt. Alessandra says this will lower the sense of competition between the you and the speaker and garner respect.
Pay Attention to Body Language
Body language can send signals to a speaker that she is not really being heard, Alessandra says. Looking away from or behind the speaker, sighing, yawning or fidgeting are all signals that a speaker is not being heard. Alessandra says looking a speaker in the eye, smiling, using hand gestures while speaking, leaning toward the speaker and tilting the head are all subconscious cues that the speaker is being heard. This can build an unspoken rapport between the speaker and listener.
Alessandra says that people who jump to negative conclusions about a speaker often fail to really hear what is being said. He recommends judging a speaker only after hearing what she says and evaluating the content. Alessandra suggests practicing effective listening by intentionally choosing a difficult speaker and using the conversation as an opportunity to practice really hearing what she says.