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How to become a better listener

improve listening skills
A good manager must be a good listener - this is an absolute necessity, yet a skill that is often underrated. When people think of managers, the assume the relevant skills are along the lines of delegating work and telling people what to do, when in fact half of the job requires the exact opposite.

Being a good listener is an incredible skill. It helps you maintain better working relationships, produce better work, and better manage those underneath you.

If you think you might need a bit of help in the aural department, here are a few tips to help you open your mind (and your ears!):

Don’t confuse hearing with listening
It’s easy to pass them both as the same thing, but the difference between hearing and listening is huge. Anyone can hear someone talk (it’s that “blah, blah, blah” noise in the background) but it requires a conscious decision to actually listen to what someone is saying, and understand the points they are trying to make. Hearing is a human condition, but listening is a skill that can be improved with practice.

Practice active listening
Try your best to focus your attention on the speaker. The best way to achieve this is to block out whatever else is going on, and don’t think too hard about how you’re going to reply. Simply listen. Make sense of what he/she is saying to get the whole idea of the conversation, and not just bits and pieces of it. Active listening also means taking note of the person’s body language and facial expressions to gauge the importance of the issue.

Display your understanding
Encourage the speaker by showing you are listening and understanding what they are saying. You can do this by simply nodding, smiling, or exhibiting active body language, which can indicate your comprehension of the spoken words.

Don’t interrupt
Refrain from giving side comments or asking questions while someone is still speaking. Aside from being rude, it may stop the speaker’s trail of thought, meaning they fail to express exactly what they intended. Butting in may also make the speaker to think that you’re uninterested in what they have to say. Also try to refrain from fidgeting, texting, or doing random stuff while talking to someone. Give them your full attention.

Express empathy
Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Sympathising means displaying regret, sadness, or sorrow to a situation, while empathising means you display an understanding about where they are coming from. To be empathetic is important, especially to the speaker, because it means that the person they are talking to understands.

Share your opinion (but don’t be judgemental)
Of course, you need to give your input - after all, that person is talking to you for a reason! But think before you speak. Are they looking for your opinion or advice, or are they just looking for an outlet to vent to? Based on what you’ve listened to and observed, relay your message in a non-offensive manner. Don’t be insensitive - especially if your opinion on the topic differs from the speaker’s. People open up to seek help and advice, not to be judged.

Looking for more tips on building your career? Click here.