“Listening is a skill that has to be learned” is something that my mom once told me. I had been complaining to her about how, no matter how many times I tell my boyfriend something, he can never seem to remember what it was that I told him (sorry if you’re reading this, Tye!). I have never found it difficult to listen to people. When someone tells me something I absorb it all; in my opinion, I rarely miss anything. I find it to be very frustrating when I talk or tell a story and I end up having to tell it over again or re-explain certain points because my audience wasn’t actively listening.
I then thought to myself, “Well… How do you learn to be an active listener? Do you go to school for that? Do they have courses you can take?”. So I did some research. To no surprise, I found out that listening is a skill that must be self-taught. There are many different ways to improve your listening skills, some of which I will explain later.
Being an active listener is a skill that is beneficial to learn for every day life, but it is most important to have in the workplace. In the classroom, students are often told that the inability to read and write will make it very difficult for them to obtain employment. Speaking is also a skill that is strongly focused on through projects such as public speaking and presentations in the classroom. But what about listening? Why aren’t there any projects or assignments geared towards a student’s ability to effectively listen? If I were in a position of superiority and my staff were unable to grasp, understand or remember what I was telling them, it would be very difficult for me to come to work everyday.
As mentioned earlier, listening is a skill that is self-taught. There are many tips out there to help you become a better listener, but here are a few that I find most effective:
- Focus on the speaker.
When someone is speaking to you, give them your full attention. Put down your phone or put aside whatever else has your attention. Not only does it make your speaker feel like what they’re saying is important, it also ensures that you are understanding the message that they are trying to get across to you.
Another tip is to watch their body language and their tone of voice. This allows you to truly feel the way that they are feeling and understand the meaning of the message.
- Do not make judgements.
When someone is telling you a story or opinion or reasoning behind a decision, try to see things from their point of view. Although their opinion may be different from yours, try to see where they are coming from before forming any sort of opinion. Simply listening to the speaker will help paint a clearer picture of the reason behind the decisions they make or the opinions that they have.
- Be sure you understand.
When people are speaking, try to listen and take in the information in a way that allows you to understand it. Take a moment to ensure that you know what they are talking about before coming up with a response. If you aren’t sure, ask for clarification.