When someone speaks, do you merely hear? Or do you listen? There’s an ocean of a difference between the two, and the biggest mistake you can make in communication is to listen only to what is said, paying no attention to what is unsaid. If you’re serious about your pursuit to be the best listener, here are some things you need to stop and start doing.
1. Don’t talk.
You’re talking too much when you interrupt when another person is talking, when you finish other people’s sentences without being asked, and when you almost run out of breath after incessant chattering. What do you need to do, then? Simply stop.
2. Do focus your energy on the listener.
When someone else is talking, you must by all means focus your energy on listening to that other person. Remove whatever distractions are on your mind—and that necessarily means not thinking about what you need to do for the rest of the day or what you have to prepare for dinner.
3. Do make the speaker comfortable.
You may not realize it, but you might be doing certain gestures or saying certain words that might be making the speaker uncomfortable. Be aware of your eye contact as well, but be careful not to stare too much that you come start coming across as a creep.
4. Don’t be distracted.
There will always be distractions around you, so deliberately avoid them. This means not doodling, picking your fingernails, staring into space, or unnecessarily interrupting the speaker with your quips. Doing all these will easily send the message that you are bored or uninterested.
5. Do empathize.
Perhaps the most powerful response that you can offer to the speaker is to empathize. Understand where the other person is coming from, do not look at things from your view, and completely put yourself in the shoes of the speaker. This is by no means an easy task, but it is necessary if you want to the speaker to completely understand his point of view.
6. Don’t let your prejudice get in the way.
I completely agree that prejudices and your preconceived notions are hard to let go of, but it’s something you have to do to understand where the speaker is coming from. Let go of your prejudices about people who speak with a regional accent, have certain mannerisms or habits, and make certain movements when speaking. Go past these and listen to the content of what they are saying.