I love watching successful interviewers, talk show hosts, and skilled orators give advice. I spend hours every month watching videos about this online.
This to me was a way to improve my social skills, make more friends (which I lacked), and develop marketable skills in the workforce.
One day, I observed a strange pattern. Many of the most skilled interviewers, like Ellen Degeneres, Charlie Rose, and Jay Abraham, emphasized the importance of listening first. So that’s when I started really studying the skill of listening.
How Socially Unskilled People Can Become Better Listeners
A good listener is naturally also a great conversationalist and socially intelligent communicator.
Improving your listening skills can improve your ability to communicate and navigate social situations effortlessly. And by improving that, your career success and personal life will skyrocket.
Here are 7 tips to improving your listening skills:
1. Stop talking
Now, this might sound obvious, but in reality, most people never do it.
When most people are interviewing or talking to others, they cannot help but to interrupt. It may take some adjusting, but over time, you can become a better listener by restraining yourself from interrupting someone else.
You do not have to stomp out every moment of interruption. It’s natural to do it occasionally. But sometimes, it’s important to take time to let the other person express their point rather than be only focused on yourself.
2. Actually take in what others say
Here is another seemingly common sense piece of advice that is actually rarely practiced. Most people do not really consider, acknowledge, or understand what someone else is saying.
Instead, they are trying to come up with what they want to say next in their head while the other person is talking. By doing this, they block out what the other person is saying.
Test this out for yourself.
The next time you are talking with someone, see if you are actually listening and understanding their point, or if you are simply pretending to listen without understanding. If an imaginary referee paused the conversation right there and quizzed you on what the other person said, can you pass that quiz?
3. Listen to understand rather listen to reply
Many people only talk to others to try and get in their own point. They pretend to listen to others simply to wait for them to finish talking so that they can give their own opinion. Wait, didn’t I just say this? No.
The last point is more on blocking out other people.
That could be for a variety of reasons. This point is more about your focus on yourself. Try to not focus on your presentation, your response, and your own opinions. A conversation should be a two-way flow of ideas, not a forced one-way flow.
You can have much more constructive and productive conversations with people if you just took more time to understand, acknowledge, and empathize with their point.
4. Acknowledge their body language
Another important pillar of good communication skills is body language and movement. A person’s facial expressions, body movements, and posture can reveal how they are truly feeling. Even when the words they say tell a different story.
A great listener and conversationalist is able to intelligently understand what the other person is really feeling so that they can navigate the situation effectively.
For example, maybe you are talking to someone and he says he is feeling great. But his facial expression is showing sadness. By understanding how someone is actually feeling, you can effectively respond and help that person.
If you only pay attention to someone’s words, you can come to a false conclusion. Many people make this exact mistake.
5. Listen to their tone of voice
Another part of being a socially intelligent listener is to be aware of their tone of voice.
Many people may say that they are calm or happy but their tone of voice reveals their true feelings, which could be the opposite of what they just say (anger, embarrassment, or anxiety).
6. Put aside your own biases
We all have our own biases and prejudices influencing our opinion.
Before someone even opens their mouth, we have already come up with our own beliefs of what that person is like. Some of these stereotypes occur because there are plenty of people who make them true.
But that doesn’t mean that your stereotypes are always accurate.
There are plenty of different biases that could be affecting your judgment and responses to the situation.
It could be gender, ethnicity, height, clothing, or accent. Good listeners put these aside so that they can really communicate with the person on a human to human level.
7. Make the other person comfortable
A socially intelligent, confident, listener is skilled at creating an environment that puts the other person at ease. If the person you are talking to is nervous, anxious, or fearful, he will not open up and say what he wants to say.
There are many ways skilled listeners and communicators can make others comfortable. Here are just a few options:
- Tell a joke to ease the tension with humor.
- Tell stories to show vulnerability and relatability.
- Make the environment more enjoyable with friendly people, furniture, or comfortable music.
Listening is not a genetic talent that you are just born with and cannot change. It is a skill that can be improved with consistent, deliberate practice.
By improving your listening skills, you can improve your communication, which can improve many areas of your life, including how many friends you have, your popularity, your status, your networking skills, and your career earning opportunities.
Now, I have a question for you:
Which of these points did you find most valuable and which one do you realize that you are not doing as much as you should? Leave a comment below.
Whatever you identified, I want you to work on now and measure your results a week from now.