DAY OF LISTENING –
Today is listening day. What, I hear you ask? Yes, listening day. The day where we reflect on how important a role listening has to play in our lives. Imagine not being able to listen, lectures would be completely pointless, chatting with friends also, we wouldn’t even have a shoulder to cry on when times are tough. So it strikes me that listening is something we all pretty much take for granted.
However, it is important to be aware that listening is also a skill that can be practiced, that can improve and, that we can often do listening quite badly. In fact, listening isn’t really enough, we need to actively listen in our lives.
Active listening involves concentrating on what someone is saying, trying hard to understand it, responding to it and remembering it. Sounds exhausting! But there are so many barriers to listening to the important people in our lives of which being on our own agenda too much is a key one, so rather than planning your response, listening fully to the other person, in the first instance, should take priority.
The ten top tips for active listening include:
- Looking at the person, giving them eye contact.
- Taking in body language and other cues too for a fuller picture.
- Not interrupting
- Reserving judgement and staying open-minded.
- Avoiding rehearsing your response in your mind until you’ve heard everything.
- Demonstrating you are listening by nodding and giving the odd ‘mmm’.
- Asking questions to develop your understanding
- Paraphrasing what they have said to check you have it right.
So why are we talking about active listening? Well, your ability to do this well will be vital in all kinds of circumstances, not just with friends or at University. Making contact with employers involves networking of which listening is vital. Being fully focused on the other person will make them feel valued by you and is a powerful tool in getting them on your side. Listening carefully to interview questions will enable you to give better answers. Listening well to others in group discussions in an assessment centre will get you noticed. In fact many people build entire careers on listening. Counsellors rely heavily on sophisticated listening skills, account managers, sales people and anyone dealing with clients, day in and day out, will listen very carefully to their clients’ agendas so as to manage the relationship effectively and profitably.
So next time you sit and listen to a friend, reflect on the power of it, and if you are a bit quieter than most because you listen more, recognise this and enjoy a sense of satisfaction that you have an important, but seriously scare and underrated skill.