If you often catch yourself zoning out or getting distracted while others are talking, you’re not alone. The average human attention span is now approximately eight seconds, thanks to the information that now bombards us from every direction. That’s why honing your listening skills can set you apart from the pack in every facet of your personal and professional life. Here are four tips you can use to become a better listener.
1. Put Your Phone Away
Many of us spend hours each day glued to our digital devices. You might habitually reach for your phone whenever you have a spare moment, even using it while doing other leisure activities like watching TV. If you have trouble tearing your attention away from your phone screen while others are speaking to you, you probably won’t retain much – if any – of what they say.
Looking at your phone while people are talking to you is rude and sends the message that you don’t value what they have to tell you. To combat this, only allow yourself to use your phone during designated times of day. As a bonus, this will also help you be more present and mindful in moments where you’re not heedlessly scrolling through social media.
2. Ask Questions
What do you do in a conversation with someone? Do you use the time when they’re talking to plan what you’re going to say next, or do you practice active listening skills like nodding and maintaining eye contact? Another way to become a better listener is to stay engaged by asking open-ended questions, like “What did you do next?” or “How did that make you feel?” You can also show that you were paying close attention by summarizing what the speaker said.
3. Don’t Interrupt
Becoming a better listener will require you to demonstrate self-discipline. If you often tune people out while they’re talking to focus on formulating your response, resist the temptation to jump in with solutions or advice. Instead, cultivate intentional awareness and practice quieting your mind while others are talking. Remember, your goal with any conversation is to come away having learned something new – not to make it all about you.
4. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Cues, Too
We can convey a lot of valuable information without saying anything at all. Next time you’re in a conversation with someone, pay close attention to nonverbal communications cues such as their facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, gestures and body language. For example, tightly crossed arms can reveal that someone feels defensive, and a voice that rises in pitch could indicate anger or fear.
Good Listeners Make Great Leaders
When you add sharpening your listening skills to your list of self-improvement goals, you’ll be well on your way to being a better friend, spouse, family member and co-worker to the people in your life. Try these four tips for becoming a better listener, and watch your relationships improve.
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