Most people think of communication as simply exchanging information. But if we’re not intentionally listening to the person we’re talking with, then we’re not really communicating at all. You can build better personal and professional relationships by learning to listen with intention. You’ll also be able to get more out of your conversations and better understand the people around you.
In today’s busy world, finding time to listen to others can be challenging. But by giving your full attention and focusing on the speaker, you’ll improve your communication skills and deepen your relationships and build stronger connections with the people in your life.
With practice and a little effort, you can become a more effective listener—a master listener, so to speak.
In a moment, I’ll share five tips on becoming a better listener but first, let’s do some foundational work.
The Importance of Listening
The ability to listen is critical to our success in both our personal and professional lives. Yet, for many of us, listening is something we take for granted. We don’t think about how important it is to be able to really hear what the other person is saying – we just assume that we’re doing it.
Listening is more than just hearing the words that are being said. It’s about being present in the conversation and engaging with the person who is speaking.
When we truly listen attentively, we pay attention to both the words and the non-verbal cues being communicated. We’re also trying to understand the message from the other person’s perspective. We’re actively trying to grasp the other person’s point.
Active Listening vs. Passive Listening
There are two main types of listening: active and passive.
Active Listening is a communication technique that involves deeply understanding and internalizing what another person is saying. Active Listeners take the time to fully process what they heard, rather than just focusing on how they will respond. Active listening can be a challenge in fast-paced business environments, but there are benefits to being an active listener.
Active listeners build strong relationships, resolve conflicts more effectively, and make better decisions by genuinely understanding the needs and concerns of clients, colleagues, and employees.
In short, active listening techniques are essential for anyone who wants to be an effective communicator in business.
On the other hand, passive listening is when we are only half-engaged in the conversation or listening with one ear while distracted by other thoughts.
It’s pretty easy to identify when we’re talking with someone, and they’re not maintaining eye contact or giving us their undivided attention—it doesn’t feel good!
5 Tips for Improving Your Active Listening Skills
1. Make time to listen.
In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to rush through conversations without hearing what the other person is saying. But if you want to be a better listener, you need to make time to slow down and focus on the speaker.
Schedule regular blocks of time for your conversations, and resist the urge to multitask or jump in with your thoughts and own ideas during the conversation.
2. Pay close attention.
While listening, be present in the moment and focus all your energy on what they are saying. Tune out any distractions around you, and be mindful of any internal distractions, like your own thoughts or judgments. Make eye contact.
Paying close attention will help you understand the speaker better and absorb their message.
3. Ask questions.
One of the best ways to become a better listener is by asking questions to clarify and understand what others are saying. Seeking clarification by asking thoughtful and open-ended questions demonstrates that you care and are interested in hearing more.
4. Practice active listening.
Active listening is a type of listening where you pay attention to the words being said and try to understand the feelings and emotions behind the words.
When actively listening, you should mirror the speaker’s body language and facial expressions and provide verbal and nonverbal cues to show that you’re engaged in the conversation.
5. Avoid interrupting.
It can be tempting to jump in with your own thoughts and ideas when you’re having a conversation in business or social situations but resist the urge to do so. Interrupting disrupts the flow of communication and makes the speaker feel dismissed and disrespected. So instead, allow them to finish their thought, wait, and respond when they are finished.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
The only way to get better at listening is to practice. So the next time you’re in a conversation, make a conscious effort to stay focused and listen to what the other person is saying. Let go of distractions, focus on their words and body language, leverage healthy eye contact, and try to understand the message from their perspective.
With practice, you’ll become a more intentional listener and reap the benefits of improved relationships and professional success.
Final Thoughts on Intentional Listening
Intentional listening is one of many interpersonal skills that can be learned and improved with practice. By following the five tips we’ve outlined in this article, you can start listening more effectively and building better relationships with the people around you.
Always remember that listening with the intent to understand is an essential part of communication, so it’s important to make sure that you’re doing it right. With focus and intention, you can become an attentive listener and get more out of your conversations.
If you’re looking for support in becoming a good listener and improve your communication skills, consider signing up for our coaching services. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how we can help you reach your goals.
Here’s to your success!