These days, we’re all guilty of being distracted listeners, when we really should try to focus on being a better listener. Too often, we’re juggling a variety of tasks at once: chatting on the phone with a friend, while texting someone else, while checking work emails, while responding to social media notifications, while the television is on in the background, etc. There’s an overwhelming amount of distractions all at the same time. It’s no wonder we’ve generationally become poor listeners.
On average, humans have about an eight-second attention span. That’s a blip of time and not nearly enough to captivate and hold someone’s interest. Our short attention spans, coupled with the distractions vying for our attention, make it really difficult to be strong and productive listeners to those in need of our complete attention.
If you struggle to devote all of your attention to one person at hand, consider these ways you can become a better listener.
5 Ways To Be A Better Listener
1. Listen to learn, not respond
If a friend is coming to you for help, they’re probably not looking for a lecture. They want to vent, get their feelings off their chest, and have your support. Rather than trying to come up with a response, try simply listening. Try understanding how they feel. See if they need anything from you. When you pause to listen to learn what the other person is thinking, feeling, and/or going through, you end up being an active listener, not a lecturer.
2. Don’t push your agenda
Depending on the conversation you’re engaged in, you might feel it’s appropriate to push your agenda. And sometimes it is. However, when you’re trying to better your listening skills, you should quiet your agenda and listen to others. Really hear what the “other side” is saying. Perhaps they have opposing views, valid rebuttals to your point, or perspectives you’ve never considered before.
3. Mind your talk-to-listening ratio
Conversations aren’t one-sided. It would be odd if you didn’t speak at all. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to manage your talk-to-listening ratio. Respond when asked questions, voice your opinions and perspective, and make the points you’re participating in the conversation to make, but maintain a proper ratio. Do a fair amount of talking, but an even bigger amount of listening.
4. Keep your body language in check
A big part of being a good listener involves your body language. Are you the type to constantly check your phone, avoid eye contact, yawn, or fidget during a conversation? If so, you’re probably making the people talking to you feel uncomfortable and your signals to them indicate you’re bored by or distracted from the conversation.
Maintain positive body language, such as making eye contact, silencing your phone, smiling or nodding when appropriate, and more. Positive body language can help to improve your listening skills by holding your interest and staying focused on the conversation at hand.
5. Pay attention to the details
Sometimes the most important parts of a conversation are things that were not even said out loud. While you’re minding your body language, look to the body language of those around you. Do they seem nervous? Anxious? Upset? Are they engaged in the conversation as well? Sometimes these details can tell you more than the words spoken. They may even present you with an opportunity to ask questions and gather more information. All signs of a great listener!
Being a good listener is a learned skill. It doesn’t come naturally for many of us and it seems to be even harder to manage as our distractions continuously increase. Do your best to implement these skills in your everyday life to become a better listener. Good luck!