10 Keys to Becoming a Great Listener
Great listeners are indeed a rarity. Yet becoming a great listener is reachable for everyone. Here are ten things great listeners do. All great listeners:
1) Focus. Great listeners pay careful attention to the message at hand, clearing the mind of yesterday’s problems or tomorrow’s challenges.
2) Minimize Distractions. Forwarding the telephone, closing the door or finding a quiet time or place to converse, all are used by good listeners to minimize distractions that interfere with understanding.
3) Take Notes. Few of us have total recall. By taking notes on things discussed, good listeners help themselves remember key points of the conversation and communicates to the sender that what they have said is important enough to record.
4) Ask Clarifying Questions. Even the greatest of listeners will occasionally need the speaker to clarify what they are intending to communicate. Effective listeners ask questions not to disagree but to ensure their compression of the message.
5) Listen for Core Ideas. Good listeners focus more on major ideas than on the details. Details can always follow later. Yet details are useless without an understanding of the overall concepts.
6) Ignore Loaded Questions and Comments. Although a challenge, great listeners do not allow themselves to be sidetracked by profanities, loaded questions, or obvious attempts to anger, agitate, or insult. Sticking to the core ideas, great listeners train themselves to balance their emotions within emotionally charged communication settings.
7) Think while they Listen. Good listeners leverage what is known as the rate differential; that is, the difference between what we normally speak (around 90-130 words per minute) and our ability to effectively listen and comprehend (around 600-700 words per minute). Simply put, great listeners use this rate differential time to think and connect the speaker’s message into a comprehensive whole.
8) Seek to Understand First. Top communicators always seek to understand the other’s view before expressing their own. This gives honor to the speaker while allowing you a chance to think (rate differential) and understand their position.
9) Interrupt Only to Clarify. You may be shocked to realize that great listeners do interrupt – but only when the speaker is wondering off the topic, is adding irrelevant information, or is not sticking to the core issue at hand.
10) Follow Up. Without appropriate follow up, great listeners slide into merely good listeners.
Through implementing these concepts into your communication repertoire, you will be well on your way to becoming a great listener.