Listen Up!
7 Techniques

Listen Up! 7 Techniques

‘The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.’
~Rachel Naomi Remen

Listening is basic. You would think that listening really isn’t something that you have to learn to do. But every mother remembers the standard joke of the nurse who does the first hearing screening on her newborn: ‘Well s/he can hear, but that is not to say that s/he will listen…’

Yes, listening is a learned skill. There is a significant difference between hearing and listening.

Hearing is a biological function, and like breathing or blinking it happens whether you are consciously telling yourself to do it or not. Listening, on the other hand, is a mental process. It requires thought, effort, and practice.

Listening is key to all effective communication. Without the ability to listen effectively messages are easily misunderstood. Communication breaks down and the sender of the message can become frustrated or irritated.

Listening requires focus. Good listening means paying attention. Not only to the story, but to how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of all the verbal and non-verbal messages. Active listening is really an extension of the Golden Rule. To know how to listen to someone else, think about how you would want to be listened to.

Listening is not a passive process, so all of the seven techniques below are active, including the ones that are not visible to the speaker…

Listen with an open mind

Be ready to hear and consider all sides of an issue. This does not mean that you have to agree with what is being said, but wait until the speaker is finished before deciding if you agree or disagree. Avoid defensiveness. Another way to think of it is to go into any interaction ready to consider new viewpoints and ideas.

Listen to the entire message

Even if the speaker is launching a complaint against you, wait until s/he finishes to defend yourself. The speaker will feel as though their point had been made. S/he feels heard and won’t feel the need to repeat the message. You’ll know the whole argument before you respond. So even if you can hear four times faster than you can talk, no multitasking when listening! You can only do one thing effectively at a time: listen, evaluate, respond. Go in that order. Listen to the entire message, then weigh your thoughts against what has been said, and finally respond. Allow each role to run its course in turn.

Remove distractions

Focus on what is being said. It takes very little to jerk our attention away from the work of listening. So remove internal and external distractions. Stop the talk, worry and preoccupation in your head. Put all other things out of mind. Resist the urge to check your phone or surf the web. Don’t doodle, shuffle papers, look out the window, pick your fingernails or similar. Turn off the TV. Put down your book or magazine.

Stop talking

Don’t talk, listen. When somebody else is talking, listen to what s/he is saying. Do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them. Suppress the urge to voice your thoughts and opinions the moment they form. It makes you a better listener. At the root of this struggle we’ll often find our ego: the believe that what we have to say is more important than what they have to say. Stop that and just listen!

Show the speaker you’re listening

Visibly and audibly demonstrating that you are listening, that you are engaged with and interested in what is being said, is just as important as the listening itself. Face the speaker. Sit up straight or lean forward slightly to show your attentiveness through body language. Maintain eye contact, to the degree that you all remain comfortable. Respond appropriately to show that you understand. Murmur ['uh-huh' and 'um-hmm'] and nod. Raise your eyebrows. Say words such as ‘Really’ of ‘Interesting’ and use more direct prompts: ‘What did you do then?’ and’“What did she say?’

Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal messages

Paying attention to body language is just as important as paying attention to the words. Gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movements can all be important. We don’t just listen with our ears but also with our eyes – watch and pick up the additional information being transmitted via non-verbal communication. And listen to the silence. An absence of words can be just as pregnant with meaning as the words themselves. A person’s body language will often give us the clues we need to interpret both words and the absence of words.

Take time to listen to yourself

Listening to yourself is a practice arena where you have unlimited opportunities to practice and the speaker [you] will be very forgiving when you stumble. By learning to listen to yourself, you will be able to cope better with obstacles such as prejudices and your internal ‘noise’. If your thoughts are in order, it will be much easier to attend to the thoughts of others.

Eliminate all external distractions [phone, television, music] and find a space to be alone. When listening to yourself, all the internal noise is sometimes the greatest enemy. Take time to sit in silence daily if you can and listen to yourself without judgment or interruption. Give the whirlwind of your thoughts however much time it needs to settle down.

When applying the techniques above, just keep in mind: God gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason…


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How about you?
Do you have any specific techniques that make you a good listener?
How does it help you in your communications?
Simply post your comments and wisdom in the comment box below!

Mirjam Stoffels

Founder of seven2success, author of ‘Daily Little Secrets to Success’ and guest blogger at Project Eve and 365 dagen succesvol. In my mission to make seven2success the biggest platform of knowledge and inspiration for women, I want to inspire you with our content! Check us out on Facebook and Twitter! I’d love to connect!  And do you want to inspire other women? Write for us!

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1 comment

  1. Oei Mirjam, happy to receive your techniques!
    Stop and listen instead of talktalktalk… thank you!

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