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Listening Skills

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around, Leo Buscaglia.

The human being is a social animal, and therefore interpersonal communication skills are vital to success in life, personally, romantically, and professionally. They include non-verbal communication, active listening, persuasive and effective dialogue with customers, partners, and colleagues, questioning and engaging with the world around us, silences, etc.

Authentic and active listening do not only project a positive image of ourselves, but also enrich our lives, avoid misunderstandings and therefore prevent many unnecessary conflicts in our relationships. In addition, the speaker feels that we are interested in what s/he is saying. In other words, we make others feel valued. We learn from new ideas, insights, and original observations, we get essential feedback for our performance, work, actions, and results. This all leads to smoother, more positive, and richer relationships.

We have two ears but only one mouth. Some people suggest that this is because we should spend twice as much time listening as opposed to talking. Others suggest it is because listening is twice as hard

We have two ears but only one mouth. Some people suggest that this is because we should spend twice as much time listening as opposed to talking. Others suggest it is because listening is twice as hard

However, our modern society is full of noises and distractions. Everything is top priority and urgent and work is for yesterday. It is not the best environment for active listening. We all see how people are constantly interrupted by questions, comments, and remarks, by mobile devices, messaging, and social media that overload them with too much information, advertising, propaganda, notifications, and superficial and banal communication. People get easily distracted and bored after just a few minutes of listening.

How to listen actively?

Furthermore, ask them questions for clarification (“Could you explain better what do you mean by…”), encourage them to give more information and elaborate on what has already been said (“Go on, I’m all ears,” “Tell me more about it…,” “And then, what happened?”). Avoid awkward silence. Provide positive, affirmative feedback, paraphrase what they are telling you (“So what you are saying is…,” “So you are upset because…”) and ask if your understanding is correct (“Is that what you really mean?” “Did I get that right?”).

  1. Your ideas, opinions, and views will be more interesting, rich, and effective if you have been able to understand everything that has been said and you have taken it into account. Two monologues do not make a dialogue. Be slow to disagree, criticize, judge, and argue. You should aim to have an open mind, to break walls and build bridges between his/her point of view and yours, and offer a positive and constructive dialogue to get things done and move forward.
  2. If you’ve listened actively with patience, empathy, and generosity, it is more likely that your partner, friend or colleague is receptive to what you have to say.
  3. Keep calm, be honest, show personal integrity and, if possible, use a healthy sense of humor. Avoid open confrontation, while still being assertive; in other words, you can talk with courage, sincerity, and determination and yet be tactful and considerate.
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