The Art of Effective Listening SkillsBy Angela Marshall, 3rd Nov 2014
“God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we listen more and talk less”.
I regularly notice how presenters on television interrupt the person they are interviewing, especially with politicians. They ask a question but do not wait for the person to complete the answer before they interrupt and even raise their voice to them. However, there are some who have a great way of interrupting to get an answer to the question without being rude. This is a great skill that takes some practise and experience, Eamonn Holmes on Sunrise Sky news and Vanessa Feltz on BBC London 94.9 are very good at this. On the other hand, politicians can be the worst, especially on “BBC Question Time”. They constantly interrupt one another.
There are two sides to communication, listening and conveying our opinions, and a good communicator always listens to other people’s opinions, needs and wants. Only by using our listening skills do we develop and learn and understand other people’s views and ideas.
We can all be guilty of interrupting someone when we are excited, totally disagree with another person’s point of view or don’t get the answer to our question. Our opinion will be taken on board much more when we listen first and then answer afterwards. When a person doesn’t allow us to voice an opinion then it is more difficult, but if we are polite and ask them to allow us to speak we will have more chance of our opinion been listened to and valued.
To be a better listener we must use both ears, watch and maintain eye contact, give undivided attention, and finally be understanding. We are then engaging in active listening!
- Stay Silent- When we are silent and listen to the person we are more likely to notice the tone of their voice, their body language and what the meaning behind the words they are saying is. It will help us to remember and recall what they said.
- Avoid Interruptions – It’s often difficult not to want to interrupt but when we allow the person to express their views and ideas there are fewer misunderstandings and we learn and appreciate their comments better.
- Give Good Eye Contact – People communicate at least as much with their body language as they do with their words. By giving good eye contact it helps to observe the meaning of their words as they express and show their feelings. It also shows you are listening.
- Show Active Signs of Listening – Give active signs of listening – nod or comment e.g. ah, oh or mm. Ask questions to ensure that you understand.
- Pauses – When pauses occur in the natural flow of the conversation, don’t feel that you must instantly fill the void. Silence is ok. Usually it is there because people are digesting what has been said before, or because the topic has been exhausted.
- Seek to understand before you seek to be understood – When we enter into conversation, our main aim is to be better understood. We need to remember to collect information before we circulate it.
- Effective Listening is a Matter of Attitude – Effective listening is more than just skill; it’s also a matter of attitude.
Being quiet and listening more is proven to be beneficial and the results will all be worthwhile. When we speak less, we do more, as our focus switches from talking to doing.
It is something we can all practise to do better!