Communication is the lifeblood of every relationship, and being effective in it leads to getting more done, improving camaraderie among your peers and experiencing less misunderstandings.
A key to effective communication is being an active listener, and this means being up to speed in paying attention to the messages which you are receiving.
Allow your mind to wander off and fail to pay attention to the conversation, and you will start to fall behind – and end up having to ask the other party to repeat himself.
However, in today’s day and age when most are time-starved and in a hurry to get things done, many, including myself, can fall short on being an active listener by hitting the “fast forward” button in our listening process.
Humans usually speak and listen at around 150 words per minute, but have the mental capacity to think and process information at about 1000-3000 words per minute.
This means that we can think 20 times faster than we speak/listen!
Having this ability is great because it allows us to deliberate on our response, observe the visual cues and body language of the speaker, anticipate what may be spoken next, and prepare ourselves to offer our response when our turn comes next.
On the flipside, this faculty may sometimes cause us to complete the speaker’s sentences, interrupt his response and to think too far ahead in the conversation till we lose track on where we were supposed to be.
In light of this, here are 3 ways for you to use your extra mental capacity to become an active listener.
1. Slow down
It’s alright to think a few steps ahead of the conversation to prepare your response and where the conversation could lead to, but don’t go overboard with this.
Whenever you find yourself wandering too many steps ahead, make the intentional effort to pay more attention to the present and conversation at hand.
2. Engage in the listening process
Instead of merely staring blankly at the speaker, why not put your extra mental capacity to good use?
Verbally and visually acknowledge the speaker’s points and opinions by saying “Yes”, “Yup” and “I see.” and by physically nodding and maintaining good eye contact during the dialogue.
Additionally, it definitely helps to indicate your understanding of the message conveyed by rephrasing and reiterating parts of the speech like “So you’re saying that…”
3. Appreciate the speaker as a person
It may be true that we tend to hurry a conversation so that we can get straight to the point, but the bottom line is that we should not take the speaker for granted.
Being part of the conversation says that the speaker values us as a recipient and he is willing to invest his time to communicate with us face-to-face, when he could have merely texted or emailed us.
To add to this, showing appreciation to the speaker will only enhance the relationship and is a way of ascribing value to him, since everyone has an inherent desire to be heard.
So, whenever you find yourself “fast forwarding” when listening, take some time to slow down, engage and appreciate. You’ll not only improve your relationships, but the communication process as well.
What are some of the challenges you face as a listener?