If you’re looking to improve your social circle, have people tell you their darkest secrets and instantly connect with anyone you meet, then you’ve come to the right place. Some pretty bold claims I know, but if you apply the listening skills you’re about to learn here, you’ll see for yourself the power of keeping your mouth closed.
Quick Warning: Like all things in life, you do have to be careful here. Very few people actually know how to listen effectively, so you’re going to become somewhat of a rare commodity. some people will try and use you as an emotional outlet for the things they don’t want to deal with. You’re going to have to become selective about who gets your attention and who doesn’t. Use these skills to grow closer to the people you care about, and don’t let yourself be drained by those you don’t. Your time is too important.
1. Listen To Understand
Most people listen as a simple courtesy. It’s hard to admit, but most of us see listening as the boring period of time between speaking.
If you want better listening skills, there are a few different mindset shifts you need to make.
When you start a conversation with someone, there are three things you should keep in mind.
– Listening is the most important part of the conversation. Without listening, all you’ve got is two people blurting out statements to themselves. This is perfect when you’re on your own for a few days and start to go a little bit mad, but it makes for terrible conversations.
– It is your mission to fully understand what the other person is trying to say. Listen with the goal of learning something new about them every time you talk.
– There are boring conversations, but very few boring people. A lot of people tell me they simply get bored during the conversation and switch off. I understand it can feel like that sometimes. But ask yourself: roughly how old is this person? And then ask yourself what are the chances this persons hasn’t done or knows at least a few things you’ll find interesting in their entire life?. Exactly. Everyone has a few interesting stories or hobbies, it’s your job to find them.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” – Stephen R. Covey.
2. Don’t Compete
“My Story’s Better Than Your Story”
Many people develop the habit of responding to stories with an even bigger story of their own. It should come as no surprise that this can get pretty irritating when there’s something important you want to talk about.
When you’re worried about a strange lump on your neck, the last thing you want is Brian to start going on about how he blacked out last month and woke up with one less kidney and a virulent strain of chlamydia. Sure his story wins, but that’s not the point.
Similar to this is topping others accomplishments with your own. Your accomplishment may be more impressive than theirs, but they didn’t want to talk about yours just yet, they just wanted someone to listen.
So why do we do this and what should we do instead?
We do this because our brains are actively searching for parallels during the conversation. Hearing someones experience triggers our memory to recall a similar experience, and in an attempt to show empathy we want to share it with them. However, sharing our own experience right after theirs doesn’t give them time to feel understood. A better response is to ask them how they felt and to ask questions about it.
Once you’ve listened to them fully, they’ll be sure to return the favour when it’s your turn to speak.
3. Be Present
Presence is vital for improving your listening skills.
Being Present While Listening: The idea is to fully immerse yourself in what the other person is saying. Clear your mind of any thoughts containing things that have happened before, or will happen in the future. Let the speakers words become the most important thing in the world for you.
That means you shouldn’t be up in your head worrying about where the conversation is going. Simply go with the flow of the conversation. Actually listen to what they say and the meaning behind it. You’ll soon begin to notice how easy it is to connect with the person on a deeper level.
When you allow yourself to be present in the moment, you’re better able to pick up on the subtle hints given off by the speaker as to what they want to talk about. Then just allow your intuition to guide you to more interesting topics.
4. The Triple Slow Nod
This is probably the easiest one so far. Just nod three times while maintaining eye contact to show you’re engaged with the conversation. Do this every few minutes or so. Nodding too much and too quickly is also considered a very low-status trait, it will also make you look like one of those bobble head dolls so don’t overdo it.
The eye contact and speed are also important. If you try this looking to the side and nodding quickly, they’ll feel pressured to speed up whatever they’re saying and you’ll come across as rude. So keep it nice and slow, like you’re really taking in what’s being said.
Extracting more information about a topic is another use of the slow nod. To keep them talking about a topic for longer, try using the triple slow nod after they finish. This can be used when you don’t know what to say next, or simply as a non-verbal way to learn more without having to ask.
5. Paraphrase, But Do It Well
Unlike the other listening skills, this is best reserved for the deeper conversations where your main goal is to show empathy. Using it all the time could get a bit tiring. The technique here is for you to reply with a quick summary of what they just said to show you fully understand them. I’ll go through a quick example.
Person A: how’s your day been?
Person B: You know what, I’ve had a shitty day today. First, my car broke down which made me late for work, and now my boss is pissed and I might be getting fired.
Person A: Your car broke down and you might be getting fired? Jesus man, how you feeling about that?
This is obviously a very basic example, but hopefully you get the idea. It’s just a whole lot better than the usual “oh that sucks”
The only caveat for this technique is you do actually have to be listening. If you don’t have a clue what’s going on, using this listening skills technique is going to be pretty embarrassing. If you’ve seen the famous Jordan Peterson interview, you’ll know exactly what I mean…
Can’t be arsed reading the whole thing..?
Not a problem my friend, I got you.
To improve your listening skills:
1. Focus on really trying to understand what the other person is saying, don’t worry about what you’re saying next.
2. When the other person tells a story, ask questions and go deeper, don’t try and compete with a bigger story of your own. Give them a chance to feel listened to and understood.
3. Be present. Focus on the present moment, make the speakers words the most important thing in the world to you. If you relax about what you’re going to say next and focus on listening in the present moment you’ll pick up on subtle cues that allow you to guide the conversation naturally.
4. Nod three times slowly to show you’re paying attention. This can also be used after the speaker has finished speaking as a non-verbal prompt for them to keep talking.
5. Repeat back what the speaker is saying in your own words as a brief summary to show you understand. This is best reserved for when you really need to show understanding. Using this all the time could become a bit of a hassle.
5 Effective Ways To Improve Your Listening Skills
Cathy Newman meme: