January 09, 2010

10 tips to become a great listener

Listening is important – not least because it shows people that you care. Watching / listening to the very interesting slidecast embedded below, that I came across via a Twitter update by Alex Osterwalder, I learned about these 10 tips to become a great listener:

1. Learn to say “not right now”
When you’re busy, tired, or distracted, and don’t have the energy to listen fully, say to the person, who wants to talks to you, that you’ll get back to him/her when you can give him/her your full attention.

2. Eliminate distractions
For example, turn off your mobile phone when you’re having a conversation with another person face-to-face or using another communication tool.

3. Be present in the moment

4. Take notes
It’s a good idea to ask for permission to take notes from the person, you’re listening to.

5. Ask questions
In this regard, ask clarifying questions to better understand what the person has said. Example: “Have I understood you correctly that…” A clarifying question gives the speaker the opportunity to elaborate on what he/she has just said.
Also, try asking open questions such as “What…?” or “How…?”

6. Look for non-verbal cues
As the importance of not least body-language but also tone is crucial for communication, keep an eye out for what the body of the person, you’re listening to, is saying.

7. Stop talking
To be a good listener, try to discipline yourself to stop talking. Make sure, for example, that you don’t interrupt the person who is speaking.

8. Resist the urge to give advice
Try working on avoiding offering solutions for the person who is speaking, i.e. try to fix the problem the speaker is facing. Instead, ask, for example, “What…?” questions to invite the person to come up with his/her own thoughts, ideas, actions.

9. Reserve judgments. Start fresh
Not least because people change, it’s a good idea to treat all conversations like they were the first. In other words, each time you talk to a person, listen to him/her like it was the first time you listed to that person. That way you’ll put away your preconceptions, which may be wrong.

10. Practice
For example, ask for feedback from people, you´re listening to, to find out to what degree they think you’re listening well.

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