How to Improve Your Listening Skills

Listen before you speak…

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

How often do you catch yourself daydreaming while someone is talking to you? I’m guilty of this from time to time but it's something that needs to stop, as humans we tend to get lost in conversation at times.

Not every conversation we have is going to be interesting, small talk is necessary at times. Don’t beat yourself up when getting involved in an awkward conversation, as a matter of fact, everyone goes through one at least once a day or a few times a week.

When it comes to conversations that we are interested in, we need to focus on one area of the interaction, which is listening. People love to talk and it’s something that we were born to do, it’s actually a blessing.

We have the opportunity to state our opinions whenever we want to and can speak as low or as high as we want to, depending on our environment. Do you feel like you talk more than you listen? If so, there are simple things you can do daily to help you improve.

Listening without cutting someone off can be hard but we feel like we have a good point and that what we say will change the person’s opinion immediately.

How often does this happen? Almost never, even when we cut someone off from what they’re saying they still end up sticking to their point. Improving your listening skills takes time and like anything else you get better at, it requires practice.

Start observing how you are in conversations. If you feel like you’re doing most of the talking in the conversation then you may want to use some of the techniques I’m about to mention in your next conversation.

Another red flag in a conversation that you may have witnessed before is someone walking away from the conversation or trying to find someone else to talk to so that they can avoid communicating with you for the moment.

This happens and it’s not a good feeling when experienced but when you improve your listening skills with the right intentions, your conversations get better and better.

Wait 2–3 Seconds Before Responding

You want the person you are talking to, to feel like they’re being heard too. If you respond to something that someone tells you in less than a second then that person may think of you as a know-it-all or someone who thinks their opinion matters more.

It’s okay to have a quick response to what someone has to say but you should keep it in your head for a little bit longer. You’ve probably experienced a time where you said something that you ended up regretting later.

This usually happens when you don’t take the time to respond to something someone has to say. In these situations, you’re speaking out of anger, stress, or even emotion.

You need to start responding with logic, ask yourself if what you’re about to say makes sense. This is a game-changer when it comes to conversation because you feel better about what you say and you feel smarter as well.

Think of the movie Karate Kid, when the protagonist Daniel Caruso yells at his mentor Mr. Myagi about something they were practicing, Mr. Myagi didn’t yell back with rage most of the time, he waited for Daniel to finish and took his time with his response. Sometimes he would even giggle at the situation because he knew conflict wouldn't be the right answer in his response.

Whenever you feel like you have to respond immediately with something to someone, intentionally take a pause, think about what you should say, and then answer calmly.

Also, if the conversation is positive and you see that the other person is enthusiastic about what you guys are talking about, mirror their enthusiasm. You should be responding in the same manner because the conversation is naturally causing you to both feel good.

Listening starts from the mind, knowing that you should be listening more than you should be talking already puts you ten steps ahead in the next conversation you have.

Don’t Cut Them Off

Oh boy, can this be hard to not do at times, no matter how good of a conversationalist you are, you’re probably guilty of cutting someone off during a conversation.

You’ve probably been on the other end of the stick when someone cuts you off. You’ve become empathetic to it because you’ve done it before but no matter who it is, it can be outright annoying.

We still love the person who may have done it to us but it’s something that interrupts your train of thought and makes you reevaluate everything you say. The reason why you want to avoid doing this in conversation is that one, you’re making the other person upset when you do this, and two, your not letting yourself listen to everything the other person has to say.

This doesn’t matter if you’re arguing or cutting someone off with excitement, it’s a habit that needs to be improved on by everyone. You want someone to look forward to talking to you when you see them right? You want to be the person that people go to when they’re having an issue in life and need someone to talk to.

This all starts from listening and people will avoid conversation with you based on the impressions you give them. So, if you’re meeting someone new for the first time, make an oath to yourself that you will not cut them off, at least during your first interaction.

You won’t regret this decision and you will have that person excited to talk to you again the next time you meet. During my first few weeks of starting a new job, I made sure that my first impression with everyone was the best it can be and this included the conversations I was having with them.

It’s hard to regain someone's trust in a conversation when you continue to cut them off, don’t let this be your weakness, instead let listening be your strength.

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Ask Questions Before Stating Opinions

Improving your listening skills can be done by asking questions to the person you’re speaking with. This will let the talker know that you’re truly interested in the conversation and it gets them excited because they get to teach you something that they have a strong opinion about.

Once the questions are answered and you understand more of what the person is saying, you can state your opinions and see where the conversation goes from there.

This is usually how deep conversations are started, asking questions during a conversation is a tool used by a lot of life coaches and therapists to help their clients answer their own questions.

Even if you want to get your opinion across without seeming rude, you can state your opinion in the form of questions. Try this out in your next conversation and watch the conversation go from small talk into something even deeper that can potentially change both of your lives.

When you ask questions, everything that the person is explaining to you becomes a lot easier to understand. Asking questions is something that you’ve been taught to do since you were young, you might as well use it to your advantage.

What’s more important to you, getting your point across or having people looking forward to talking to you? Conversation is something that people are improving upon every day, get ahead a little bit by using these simple techniques. I’ll leave you with a quote from James Nathan Miller that says

“There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.”

A young adult who’s writing is geared towards self-improvement and self care. “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

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