Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top 5 Tips to Become a Better Listener

We cannot underestimate the power of listening skills at any phase of our lives – as children, young adults, and mature professionals. I personally believe that success and failure depends on how well we listen to everything around us - the voice of our parents, teachers, leaders and nature. 

Here are my top 5 tips to become a better listener:

1) Be quiet  - To really listen, you have to be quiet first. I ensure that I spend quality 'silent' time with my own self. I usually do this during my evening walks in the park. Sometimes, I just sit down and meditate in my room. >> You must learn to listen to your own self before you can listen to others.

2) Observe I once read somewhere, 'Words have no meaning, people have meaning.' I think listening really means to engage with the other person. In order to do so, I do observe their background, mood, concerns, body language etc. in the light of the conversation goal. I try to project a positive body language and use the technique of mirroring to observe and resonate. >> Listening is about two entities. So, it is important that you understand and respect the other person and their background.

3) Take notes - I know that everything can be recorded and heard again but taking notes helps me stay engaged with the conversation and listen actively. I do this when I am in professional meetings either online or face-to-face. Taking notes also projects a positive outlook and a commitment towards the conversation or discussion. >> Taking notes is not about flattery. It is about being truly interested in the conversation and its outcome.

4) Avoid reactions - I consciously try to listen without overbearing the other person with my reactions. I can't say I succeed every time but I try to be as non-judgmental as I can be. This is very important in both personal and professional settings in order to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. >> You need to suspend your disbelief and listen without preparing your response or thinking about what you are going to say next.    

5) Ask questions - One sure way of listening actively is to be prepared to ask questions at the end of the conversation/talk. It could be a clarification or a question. I use this strategy to become more attentive in conferences and seminars and be more curious and interested in the topic. Besides, relevant questions also help the audience at large. >> To complete the listening process, you must summarize and clarify any doubts. Good questions will fuel learning.

For more tips, you can view an inspiring talk by Julian Treasure on Ted talksJulian shares with us the importance of listening and how we can listen better. I agree with the state of affairs as described by Julian. I do believe we are losing our ability to listen. But I hope with these tips, we can work towards becoming better listeners.