3 WAYS TO BECOME A BETTER LISTENER
Many of you may have heard the phrase, “he who asks the questions, controls the conversation”. As it turns out there is a great deal truth to this statement. I have found the most common area of social skills which people struggle with is their ability to be good listeners. Being a good listener requires you to become an active listener rather than a passive listener. This is the reason why most people have problems remembering important names and events.
To master this skill, we must first come to terms with what the purpose of any conversation is. The basic reasons people communicate with each other are to gather information, find resolutions, come to agreements, or even amicable disagreements.
If you do not learn to be a good listener, it will be very hard for you to get people to want to work with you or even speak to you. I am going to give you three tips that I have taken from workshops I have conducted, which I guarantee will make you a better conversationalist.
1. Train yourself to be self-aware.
Getting yourself to be in the moment can be a tall order for some people because it is very easy for us to become distracted by our immediate surroundings. We seldom find ourselves having conversations in quiet places. Most of our conversations are had on the go, in the hallway, in a room full of people and even in an elevator. So, given that in most cases we cannot control the environment around us, what can we do? The answer is simple, control what you concentrate on.
One the easiest ways to improve your concentration when you are speaking to people is by simply maintaining more eye contact. In general, we have a tendency to give our attention to the things we spend time looking at. In my own experience, I have often discovered that it is easy to block out external distractions if I simply try to look the person I am talking to in the eye. Try this the next time you meet someone, and I am certain it will help you to increase your concentration.
2. Show genuine interest in the other person.
I learned this concept from Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. The book basically teaches people how to be likable and be more persuasive. One of the key concepts the book teaches is how to be an observant conversationalist.
I remember I was speaking to a close friend of mine, and while I was speaking to her, I realized she had a pretty cool pair of black and white Nike sneakers on. So, I decided to compliment her on her shoes. This allowed the conversation to be more intimate, but more importantly I was engaged with the person I was speaking to.
Much of being interested in other people comes from your ability or lack thereof to be observant when the other person is speaking. The next time you find yourself in a conversation with a friend or a colleague, try to be more inquisitive about what they are wearing, and see if you can find something that is genuinely appealing for you to comment on in a tasteful manner. This will make the other person feel good, and thus encourage him or her to want to continue speaking to you.
3. Ask better questions.
I have found that one of the most critical components to human interaction is the ability to ask excellent questions. As I previously mentioned, the person in control is always the one asking the questions. The first thing to understand about this concept is that, the primary reason for asking questions is to gather information.
Your goal is to move the conversation in a specific direction, and you can only do this successfully and gracefully if you ask great questions.
Here is the practical application of what I mean. I was recently speaking to a client that was interested on one of our public speaking programs. I noticed that he was having some difficulties getting to the root of what he wanted.
I then simply asked him, “what is the biggest headache you are having with speaking in public – what are your inhibitions”? From that point on, the rivers of communication began to flow. All I had to do from thereon was actively listen to him and take notes on what he was saying to close the deal.
The next time you are out there speaking to someone, try asking questions that can allow you to listen to what they are saying and have an enjoyable conversation. I would also like to hear from you, what are some of the things that you do that helps you to interact better with people?