Four Tips on How To Listen

I Just Want to be Heard!

Who are the good communicators?  They are the good listeners!  Who are the best helpers?  Those who really listen and get to know the needs of the persons they are helping.  Who are the best bosses?  Those who listen to the problems and the solutions of their workers.

Listening can be the secret ingredient of a good friendship, a good marriage, or any good relationship.  It is the first step of successful problem solving.

Here are the four tips of good listening:

  1. Listen with good eye contact.  Let your partner know that he or she is important.  Let your partner know that what he or she is saying is important.  The best way to do this is to make good eye contact.  You will pick up information about the feelings as well as the content of the message.  You will be communicating the fact that the speaker is important to you.  You will be communicating the fact that what is being said is important to you.
  2. Eliminate other distractions. One thing that makes good listening difficult is distracting sound, or
    A man and a woman, the woman is trying to talk, the man is listening to his earphones, and working on a tablet.

    Eliminate Distractions to improve listening.

    action, or visuals.  So when you are in a real conversation with someone, turn off the radio, turn off the television, turn the sound off your cell phone.  Forget about trying to have an important conversation while you are multitasking.

  3. Set a time to talk when you will both be able to concentrate on the issue. Some distractions cannot be eliminated.  If you are waiting for an important phone call, you cannot easily turn it off.  If you are caring for very young children, they cannot often be ignored.  We can all come up with times when interruptions will be important.  When this is the case, admit that the time is not right for an important conversation.  At that time, both of you can set a time when serious talking and listening can take place.  Make this a real appointment, not some casual response such as “Let’s talk later” or the even worse “I’ll try to get together with you tomorrow.” Agendas and appointments are important.  See Communication Skills: Positive Ways to Set Limits, suggestion number four.
  4. One person talks at a time, the other really listens. When two people have a point of view, especially if they disagree, they may find it easy to both talk at once.  Another problem with disagreements is that when we are hearing an opinion that we disagree with, it is easy to think about our own argument rather than really
    A man and a woman, the man is talking, the woman is looking at him and listening.

    One person talks, the other listens in order to understand.

    hearing what the other person is saying.  A third difficulty is that we often want to solve any problem that we hear.  If two people have something to say, especially if there is a disagreement, they can agree to take turns hearing each other out.  Listening means hearing to understand the point of view of another person.  It does not mean solving the problem, or changing how the other person thinks or feels.  It just means understanding.

This is easier if you know that you will be heard next.  Sometimes people agree that the speaker holds some object, perhaps a pen, when he or she holds the floor.  Then after an agreed amount of time, or once the position has been satisfactorily expressed, the pen is given to the other person, who now knows that he or she can speak while the other person listens to understand.