Great listening skills are a cornerstone of your communication skill set. Real listening is based upon your intention to do one of the following:

  1. Understand someone 
  1. Enjoy someone 
  1. Learn something 
  1. Give help or solace 

Understanding someone is about stepping into their shoes and deeply comprehending their point of view. This does not mean a polite exchange about the weather. It means wanting to know their situation and how they feel about it. Enjoying someone is hearing the real meaning behind someone’s words so you can appreciate the person, their humor, and their spirit. It doesn’t mean waiting for your turn to talk; it reflects a desire to really get to know the person, even in a small way. Learning something requires a certain humility, to set aside your preconceptions and open yourself to what the person has to say. Giving help and solace means taking time out of your day to offer support. For all these intentions, the foundation of real listening is having a genuine interest in what the other person has to say. Here’s are some tips on how to be a great listener:  

  1. Maintain eye contact 
  1. Lean slightly forward 
  1. Nod or paraphrase to acknowledge the speaker 
  1. Ask clarifying questions 
  1. Avoid distractions (mobile phones, etc.) 
  1. Attempt to understand what is being said, regardless of how you feel. 

Being quiet is a good start in listening but there’s more to it.  All of these points involve attention on the speaker and what they are trying to convey. We need to communicate to the person that we are listening while we listen. We ask questions in order to better understand what is being said. Eschew work and other parts of our life while we are listening; there is nothing more valuable in this situation than our attention. Our internal thoughts and feelings will try and intrude and we mustn’t let them.