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How to Become a Good Listener in 4 Ways
People tend to remember the good listeners better. If your work involves dealing with many people on a daily basis, you’ll do better in your job if you’ll learn how to listen well. It may come as a surprise, but there is a subtle difference between merely hearing and actually listening—the latter takes conscious effort, empathy, and much practice. Learning how to become a good listener takes time, especially in trying to unlearn all the distracting habits we have picked up over a lifetime. It does not take much: simply read the following tips.
1. Always try to be present
You’re probably thinking, “Of course, I’m present! I’m sitting right here.” But many do not realize that even if you’re physically present, your mind may tend to zone out or wander, thereby missing the vital points of whatever the other person is trying to tell you. Most often, we have acquired certain habits to reassure the other person that we’re actually listening—you may nod to acknowledge certain points, you may grunt in assent, but these things may be merely habits, things you do automatically without much conscious effort. To be present, therefore, is to be mentally there, in that moment, fleshing out every word the other person is saying. One great way to achieve this mental focus is by meditation—through regular meditation, maybe by a few minutes each day, you can retrain your brain or mind to fully concentrate on the present. This has a scientific basis: in neurological tests conducted on people who perform regular meditation, it has been demonstrated that meditating can enhance the brain’s neuroplasticity (which is akin to “exercising the brain”), and strengthen the overall wiring and synchronicity of the brain. With a “better, more powerful brain” as the outcome, you become more capable of controlling your mental focus, and therefore be actually “present” during a conversation.
2. Let the other person finish speaking
This is not only one of the best practical tips on how to become a good listener, but it is also good etiquette to let the other person finish speaking first before you say anything. In this way, you don’t compromise the other person’s momentum. If you feel that you already “get” what the other person is saying and you have this overwhelming urge to speak, stifle it.
3. Don’t make assumptions
Of course, we’re not exactly a blank slate, but when we take part in a conversation by consciously making the effort not to superimpose our own assumption on the things the other person has to say ensures a more meaningful talk. Often, we hear only what our assumption lets us hear, even if the speaker is saying something else with a different meaning. That’s why, as a solid step to how to become a good listener, you should engage in conversation with an open mind.
4. Ask clarifying questions—and ask them in a tactful manner
Finally, ask helpful questions to clarify certain points in the talk. This is really related to the previous one—that thing about not making any assumption—because you don’t know, so you’re asking the question. As an important tip on how to become a good listener, asking questions clears out anything that might have been said with a double meaning. Also, the speaker might have left out a few details because they “assumed” that you already know it or that those details are not important, and you can only bring them out by asking the proper question. This also helps the other person open up more, which thereby makes the conversation much more fruitful.