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Ears Wide Open

We listen to get information, to understand, to enjoy the content or to learn something. That's exactly why listening is one of the most important skills you can have. It affects your efficiency at work but, more importantly, it affects the quality of your relationships with others.

How well can you hear?

All the research that deals with listening as part of communication shows that we can remember between a quarter and a half of what we hear. If you talk to a friend, boss, colleague or sister for ten minutes, you have their attention less than half of the time. In the same way, if you listen to someone, you cannot absorb the whole information, but only 25 to 50 per cent of what is said. That's why it's good to hope that the important thing is in that percentage.

Foto by Andrea Piacquadio

Avoid conflicts and misunderstandings

Improving your listening skills means you can more easily avoid conflicts and misunderstandings, be more productive, but also be able to influence others better, convince them of your ideas and negotiate better.

Good communication skills require a high level of awareness of how you communicate and how others see you.

The best way to develop your listening skills is to practice active listening. When you actively listen, you consciously try to understand not only the words spoken by the other person but also the entire message he is sending. Don't let yourself get bored and lose focus on what the speaker is telling you. If it's a challenge, try repeating the words you just heard in your head. This will reinforce the message you are hearing and help you stay focused. Active listening involves paying full attention to the speaker. You mustn't let anything distract you. Likewise, you can't listen well if you're coming up with counterarguments while the speaker is still talking.

Do others feel that you are listening to them?

And the one who tells you must have the feeling that you are listening to what he is saying. Are you physically engaged in listening or are you only thinking about whether the other party has heard what you are saying and whether it is even worth continuing the conversation? No one likes to talk to walls, but it often seems to us that our message is not being accepted, and we are not aware that we are creating a wall from which information is being bounced.

Eye contact, head nodding, or the occasional "A-ha," or "Yes, yes," shows attention. At the same time, this does not mean that you agree with the speaker, but only that you follow what he says. Your body should also look interested in listening, and an active posture in which your body is standing can help increase your concentration. It is good to answer the speaker with occasional questions that will help him clear up any ambiguities, and it is also good to summarize a few sentences at the end so that the speaker knows that you are listening to him and understanding his message.

Active listening can be improved and practised.

Pay attention

When the speaker is talking, give him full attention and try to understand him. Your non-verbal communication also speaks. Look directly at the speaker and distance yourself from thoughts that reduce your concentration. Don't make up an answer to what the speaker is saying. Get away from the noise that reduces your attention. Read the speaker's body language.

Show that you are listening

Your body language must show attention. Occasionally nod, smile and use other facial expressions. Keep your body posture open and interested. Encourage the speaker with small comments like "Yes" or "Ah-ha".

Give feedback

Our attitudes, assumptions, evaluations, and beliefs can distort our understanding of what we hear. The listener's role is to understand what is being said. This means that you should give an opinion on what you hear and ask questions. Answers to what the speaker says should be in the form of a paraphrase: "What I heard is..." or "As far as I understand...". It is also good to ask questions to clarify some parts of the story. Then it's good to ask "What exactly did you mean when you said...?" or "Does that mean...?". It's just as well to occasionally summarize what the speaker has said.

Don't start with an attitude

Interrupting the speaker is a waste of time. It annoys the speaker and at the same time prevents a full understanding of the message. The speaker must have enough time to finish each part of his story before asking questions. Never interrupt the speaker with counterarguments.

Answer appropriately

Active listening fosters respect and understanding. It gives you information and someone else's view of things. You will gain nothing by attacking the speaker or belittling him. Be careful, open and honest in your reactions. Speak your mind respectfully and treat the other party the way you want to be treated.

Paying attention, showing interest, giving feedback, postponing opinions and responding appropriately to the speaker's views will lead to better communication, the development of good relationships and, ultimately, successful work performance.

The recipe for good listening is simple: turn to the speaker and look at him, listen to non-verbal messages, don't interrupt the speaker, listen without judgment and conclusions, don't think about what you're going to say next, don't push your opinions and solutions, stay focused, paraphrase, summarize and ask questions and, of course, constantly exercise your ear.


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