How to be a better listener…and listen like your life depends on it

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Are you a good listener?

Do you listen like your life depends on it?

Being a master listener comes with some crazy benefits. Here are three:

  • Active listening has people think you’re awesome. It’s one of the most effective ways to be a people magnet. When you truly listen to people they feel appreciated. It fills a deep need all people have to be understood. People like to be around people that hear them. It makes them feel good.how to be a better listener
  • Active listening gives you leverage. When you understand people you can use your knowledge to speak to what they need, and also get what you want.
  • Active listening makes you smarter. The fastest way to expand your emotional IQ skills and to get unstuck when dealing with common life challenges, is to listen. It’s a simple way to boost your success in all areas of life.

So, let me ask you again: Are you a good listener?

Find out now by doing a quick listening audit on yourself, against the most common listening pitfalls listed below. Then read on to learn four simple tips you can use today to be a better listener.

The six most common listening pitfalls

We’re all guilty of them each pitfall from time to time, though you will find that you identify most with one. Which listening style is dominant for you?:

#1: The Anxious Listener

When you’re in conversation, do you find yourself overly concerned with how you’re doing? Do you wonder: What does the other person really think of me? Or, What should I say now to sound intelligent?

When you’re caught up in thoughts of how you’re being perceived it takes you out of the conversation. It becomes about you not the topic you are discussing or what’s going on with the other person.

#2: The Analyzer

Do you approach most conversations with an intention to critique and provide your expertise to the other person, to solve what they are dealing with? Are you always looking to offer advice?

As the Analyzer you’re more interested in diagnosing or playing the role of therapis than you are of listening. If you take a “here’s what you should do approach” to your conversations without being asked for this kind of input, you might be an Analyzer.

#3: The “I’m not listening but I sure look like I am” listener

The easiest way to spot this type of listener is from noticing their emphasized body language. Expressive eyes. Excessive smiling and exaggerated nods of the head.

If this is you, you make a real effort to show you’re engaged in your conversations. Though, in many cases you’ve got a hidden agenda. You unconsciously drive the conversation in a specific direction.

This listening style is classic in the media where interviewers are trying to get the right answers in a short amount of time and look genuinely interest for the camera, but are preoccupied with the internal dialog in their head.

#4: The Ego-Centered Listener

This listening style is best illustrated with an example:

Person A says: “I’m so frustrated I woke up with a cold today. I’ve been coughing all morning and my nose is stuffed!”

Person B says: “You know what, I’m getting a cold too. It’s no fun. I’m going to have a tea to make myself feel better. I hate being sick.”

This type of listener always responds with their experience of what is going on. They don’t listen or empathize with the person they are speaking to. They tend to always direct the conversation back to themselves.

#5: The Too-Active Listener

Have you ever had the experience of being fully committed to listening to someone and you’re so focused on listening, that you find yourself not listening?

This often happens when people learn to be better listeners and they focus on all the things they should be doing – making eye contact, nodding their head, paraphrasing – and lose their ability to just be. To do the one thing they are supposed to do.

#6: The “wait did you say something?” Listener

Are you constant multi-tasker? When people speak to you, do you stop what you’re doing and give them your undivided attention? Or, do you maintain conversations while you’re focused on other activities and barely notice you’re talking to someone else.

This type of listener often messes up simple instructions or interrupts the person they are talking to mid-sentence with a “wait, what did you just say?” or “I missed that”.

What it feels like to truly listen…

Listening is not a passive skill as many people think it is. On the contrary, it’s highly active. In fact, if you’re listening properly, you might feel tired after a deep conversation. It takes energy, attention and focus to listen like a master.

It also requires throwing out any agenda you have when you listen. Forgetting about yourself and being fully engaged in the experience of the person you are talking to.

When you truly listen you lose yourself. You find yourself in a dance of conversation where you no longer think. It’s similar to the feeling of playing a piece of music on a instrument that you’ve learned to play without the music, or following a dance routine you’ve learned, without thinking about the steps.

If you want to be a better listener here are four simple steps you can immediately to increase your effectiveness:

Four pro listening tips

Step 1: Amplify your interest

Listen like you care about the topic you’re conversing about even when you don’t. Make an effort to take a deep interest in the person you’re speaking to. If you don’t care initially, this will easily dissipate when you bring your full attention to the conversation. Find something in what the are saying that is of interest. Engage with them and explore the topic.

How to listen like a proStep 2: Let go of your internal dialogue

Listening like an expert requires you let go of what you want to say when it pops into your mind. Walk into your conversations without an agenda.

Stop driving the conversations.  Really listening means giving up what you want to say over and over (and over!) so you can hear what the other person has to say. 

Step 3: Respeak

Respeak is a technique of periodically saying back what you just heard to the person who just said it to you. It’s effective because:

  1. It allows you to ensure you got the correct message.
  2. It shows them that you heard them.
  3. You hear the message again and then you know what to say back to those people.
  4. This is extra effective when you are in a stressful or heated conversation.

Step 4: Learn how to read and use body language

Sometimes your body language sends the wrong message. Learning body language helps to express your engagement and like of the person you’re speaking to. It also helps you interpret what other people are saying to you beyond the words coming from their mouth.

Try the techniques above. They are foolproof ways to steer clear of the common listening pitfalls.

You’ll be shocked what can occur when you start to deeply listen to people. You will  feel what they feel. You’ll start to get caught up in experiences with them. And you’ll learn about the people in your life profoundly.

People will feel heard by you, and they will feel understood and be grateful that someone is finally listening to them. They will want to be around you more. They will tell others how incredible you are and you’re likeability will expand.

CLICK HERE: Watch a video tutorial on the four steps of active listening, led by ALC founder Kay Walker

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