The biggest impediment to *Clear listening is the sound of your own voice.
I am a listener by nature, always have been. My father told me from an early age to “use your eyes and ears, not your mouth”. I took that advice to heart and feel that it has served me well through the years.
It has long been my opinion that people, for the most part, just want to talk about themselves. In some cases this can manifest itself as one upmanship and take a very aggressive form, but in most cases it is just the natural tendency of the bulk of mankind.
Because of this, truly exceptional listeners are a rare and valuable resource.
Good Listeners are Great Conversationalists
The thing about good listeners is that they keep the conversation flowing through the use of physical and verbal prompts. This allows the person speaking to really get out what they are trying to say, as well as aid them in developing their ideas.
Open ended questions are a technique that help keep the conversational gears greased. Asking clarifying questions that require a long form answer helps get to the root of their idea and can subtlety steer the conversation.
Avoid questions that require a yes/no answer as it puts the onus on the other person to “come up with something to say” rather than helping to draw them out.
The physical cues of a good listener show the speaker that you are focused on what they are saying. These include:
- Eye contact
- Shoulders squared so you are facing the person
- Leaning in slightly
- Mirroring their body language
- Appropriate facial gestures
It isn’t important to try and remember those points, as you will do them automatically if you are truly engaged in the conversation.
Keep it zipped
As mentioned before, most people just want to talk about themselves. Including you. This is why it can take some effort to break the habits of interrupting, or thinking of what you are going to say next when you should be listening.
In order to really communicate with a person you first need to really listen to what they are saying. You won’t do a good job of this if you keep bringing the conversation back around to your needs or point of view.
When people are truly listened to they feel valued. In turn this builds trust and rapport which will work in your favor.
If *Clear Communication is truly your goal then get out of your own way. Use your eyes and ears, not your mouth.