In order to be able to communicate successfully with others we have to develop our listening skills, truly listening to what someone is saying and understanding them is the key to effective communication. While the majority of us think we listen to what others are saying, in fact very few of us actually do listen intently and this is where misunderstandings can arise, which leads to difficulties and sometimes arguments.

Most of us have, over the years developed poor listening habits and have continued through life with these habits, some of the most common habits that people have developed which leads to poor listening skills include:

  • Listening without really hearing what the other is saying, which often
    leaves us missing the point
  • Allowing other influences around us to distract us and drift away from
    the conversation
  • Pretending we are listening when in fact we are thinking of something
    else and only hear snatches of what is being said
  • Starting out listening, then if we think we know what is being said, interrupt the person before they have finished talking
  • A person often hearing what they want to hear, or what they think they should be hearing – which is often very different from what is actually being said
  • Assuming we know why something is being said and jump on the defensive side
  • Waiting for an opportunity to butt into the conversation with our own point of view

These are the most common mistakes that many of us make when it comes to listening, or rather, not listening. However by realizing your mistakes and attempting to change them you are more likely to be aware of your mistakes, and this makes changing bad habits easier.

To develop positive and effective listening habits you should follow the following tips:

  • Even if what the talker is saying is boring, you really have to force yourself to listen intently to what they are saying and not be tempted to drift away into your own world. As well as focusing on what they are saying, watch their body language such as eye contact, hand movements and head nods.
  • Listen to everything they are saying even if this means acknowledging the unpleasant or what you don’t particularly want to hear.
  • Try not to draw any conclusion before you have heard everything the person is saying to you, don’t butt into the conversation before they have finished by guessing what they are going to say.
  • Question the speaker in a non-judgmental way, by asking questions in this manner you will very often find that what the speaker has in mind and what you assumed are two different things.
  • When unsure ask them directly if what you think is actually what they meant, this can very often alleviate or stop any misunderstandings from occurring.

The more you practice improving your listening skills the easier it becomes until you develop these new habits as second nature. You will then find that you get along with people easier and are less likely to get into conflicts through misunderstandings.

Mark Coburn

Mark has a genuine passion for inspiring people and organisations towards transforming their dreams and goals into reality. His specific areas of focus include leadership development, team building, smarter goal setting, work life balance and interpersonal communication skills for business professionals.

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