Why is it that it is so hard for us to listen? We’re always busy with our own thoughts – which is a bit strange because we already know them. Even while there are always new things to learn and gain by how others think, we’re often so focussed on voicing what we think ourselves.

This is not only rude, but I actually think we can be more productive by listening better. Being a better listener saves time, because you really know what the other person means. This means less misunderstandings and less time wasted because you failed to record some detail. This is why I believe active listening is one of the most important soft skills.

How to be a better listener?

  • Stop talking. Easy starter, but actually hard. You know what: skip the other pointers if you’re really going to trying this one out today. I won’t mind.
  • Take the time. Some people start talking as soon as you’re taking a breath, while you weren’t finished at all. Also: try staying quiet for 5-7 seconds after you asked someone a question and they have shared their initial answer. Most interesting answers come after the speaker has had some time to think, and because you stay silent they will feel the space to actually share their more fragile thoughts.
  • Focus on the other’s point of view. When someone is sharing an idea, our minds start racing towards an opinion. Does this idea fit what I think? Do I agree? Meanwhile, you miss out on valuable information from the speaker. Focus on the other’s point of view helps you stop thinking about yours.
  • Listen for ideas and concepts. It is easy to get lost in small details. What is the larger point the speaker is trying to communicate? If you can get to this part, you really understand what the other is saying.
  • Ask questions. “Do you mean you’re angry because I didn’t notify you about my delay?” By asking clarifying questions, you allow the speaker to share more details, to get to the bone of what he or she wants to share.

Sorry, I’ll shut up and listen now.