Welcome back, everyone! No matter who you are, where you live, or what your work looks like (or if you don’t work at all!), this article is for you. Every single person is tasked every day with listening: Are you listening to a friend? Family member? Colleague? Manager? The news? Scrolling your phone and hearing influencers speak on social media? YouTube vlogs? The sounds of nature on a walk? Plugging into a podcast or music? Listening is all around us, every day, and crucial to the communication that threads our lives together. So, being an active listener and listening with intention is key to setting you up for professional and personal success. Keep reading to find out HOW to do so here!
Listening with Intention
- Remove Distractions! Even if you have a habit of multitasking in meetings or during activities, becoming a great listener requires full focus on whatever is in front of you. We often spend the majority of our day thinking about what we are going to do next and it distracts us from tasks at hand; whether this means at work or in personal conversations, it’s crucial to direct your full attention to the person speaking. Not only will doing so help you engage and retain information, but will immediately help you display yourself as interested in the conversation and provide the other person with confidence and comfort. Especially in corporate settings, before you join a meeting (whether in person or virtual!), make sure to silence your phone or computer notifications to minimize easy distractions.
- Body Language: Body language is also crucial to how you come across to the person you’re speaking with, and this counts for online meetings too. Simply making sure you are facing the person with your full body will queue body language that you are engaged and invested in a conversation; make sure to sit up straight, adjust your shoulders back, and uncross your arms or legs if you lean into one of those positions naturally (and sometimes when nervous). Think about conversations you’ve had throughout your life where someone is playing with their hair, tapping a foot, stretching mid-conversation, or otherwise wandering off across the room with the way their body is turning… how did it make you feel? Probably that they were uninterested, which consequentially results in your speaking falling flat.
- Eye Contact: I know eye contact can sometimes feel awkward or uncomfortable, especially for the up-and-coming digital generations who grew up staring at their phones and screens. However, eye contact is essential to productive conversations and displaying interest. Remember that your mind will follow the patterns of your eyes – if you’re staring around the room of any environment, you’re already setting yourself up to wander into thoughts outside of the conversation at hand! Suppose eye contact is something that you struggle with. In that case, there is a plethora of information online to help you train this type of skill, as well as developmental classes to improve on strategies for sustaining eye contact in any conversation.
- Be Present and Ask Questions: While the above strategies are largely things you can physically control, the true differentiation between meaningful and lacking listeners is intangible – be present! You can do so by asking questions throughout a conversation or by jotting down notes (especially in corporate settings) and following up after someone is done sharing. Ensuring that your questions are specific and on par with the course of the conversation will differentiate the way that you display your ability to comprehend, retain, and respond to information. Especially in interview settings, the questions that candidates ask are a key factor in differentiating themselves from the rest of an applicant pool!
- Extra Tip: It’s okay to follow up too! Especially when you’ve engaged in a new topic, learned a new skill, or otherwise were introduced to new information, circling back to the conversation is a great way to create longevity and meaningful relationships. For example, if you discussed a podcast or two with a friend, sending a follow up text to acknowledge that you’ve listened (including a specific tidbit from what you heard) or asking to learn more about the speaker is a perfect display of listening and acting on information shared with you.
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