10 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills

ListeningMarch was International Listening Awareness Month but every month is a good time to check how well you listen.

What with the endless supply of texts messages, abbreviations and acronyms we use to communicate, it’s no wonder our listening skills fall short.

Listening is the process of receiving, constructing meaning from and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages.

In the early years of marriage, my husband often accused me of not listening. Of course, I denied, explained and defended my listening skills repeatedly.  Fortunately, I learned that hearing is not the same as fully listening.

According to the International Listening Association, only about 50% of what we hear is retained immediately after we hear it and only 20% after that.

So in honor of International Listening Awareness Month, I’ve compiled a list of ways to become a more effective listener:

  1. Maintain eye contact – eye contact keeps you focused on the conversation at hand and keeps you involved
  2. Focus on using inviting body language, such as making eye contact, uncrossing your arms, and turning your shoulders so you’re facing the person speaking. Use your body to show your interest and concern such as nodding year head.
  3. Avoid thinking about what you’re going to say next.   Try not to get ahead of the speaker by finishing his or her thoughts in your mind before the person is finished speaking
  4. Participate in active listening by encouraging the speaker with nods and affirmative words.
  5. Paraphrase and repeat what you heard when it’s your turn to talk. Don’t interrupt – If you’re interrupting the person speaking to get your point across, you’re not listening
  6. Ask questions or request examples for clarification and to get a better understanding of what is being said.
  7. Stop doing other things — fidgeting, texting, reading, etc., — while someone is speaking to you.
  8. Focus on content, not delivery. If you find yourself counting the number of times someone clears their throat, touches their nose or  says uh, your attention is not on the subject matter and you need to refocus more on the message.
  9. Ask open ended questions. Closed questions close the door to further conversation by giving a yes or no answer. Whereas, open questions allow for access to further dialogue. For example, the speaker might say, “I don’t like my hair” The listener might respond, “What about your hair don’t you like?” or, “Tell me more about your feelings regarding your hair”.
  10. Pay close attention to a speaker’s body language – posture, eye movement and facial expressions.  This will give you cues to the meaning behind the words being spoken and what he or she is really trying to convey.

Communication skills can easily be lost in the sea of instant messages, shorthand-speak and abbreviations we have become accustomed to using.  Unfortunately, these shortcut ways of speaking deprives us of meaningful connections and stimulating conversations.

Even though International Listening Awareness month is over, we can still use these tips to help improve our listening skills.

And, while you’re here, please take a moment to join our Self-Care Circle and get your free audios of 7 Daily Self-Care Tips to Renew Your Body, Soul and Spirit.

Gladys Anderson | Self-Care Genie

Gladys M. Anderson is a certified life coach, licensed marriage & family therapist, consultant, workshop facilitator and author of the soon to be published book, “Master the Genie Within”. She coaches women in the art of saying no and how to protect their precious time and energy by setting strong boundaries to create a uniquely crystal clear vision for the satisfying careers and relationships they truly want. In her spare time, Gladys loves to travel and experience new and exciting adventures. She is an amateur genealogist, avid reader, loves “techy” stuff, and enjoys reading mystery novels.

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