the feeling of not being heard is one of the most frustrating feelings we can imagine. We assume that whenever we are listening to someone and understand their words we are listening, but simply hearing is not enough, since, among other things, we need to understand what they are saying and consider non-verbal communication.
How to improve your listening skills?
The active listening is a technique to develop our ability to listen which focuses on three core competencies:
To communicate we must first understand what our interlocutor really wants to tell us, which is not as simple as it seems. In most cases this understanding occurs instantaneously and unconsciously, but there are numerous barriers that can prevent it, such as:
- Language barriers.
- The use of slang.
- The cultural, generational, social, rank differences and other discrepancies that exist between people.
In order to respond appropriately, we must understand and remember what the other person has said. Not all people retain the same details, as some remember what is specific while others focus on the general idea. It is common for us to only retain details that we consider relevant to our response.
If we listen actively, we focus on the other person’s words instead of thinking about what our response will be. Controlling and suppressing our ego is complicated.
There are a number of potential barriers including:
- Cognitive prejudices and selective listening.
- Distractions, both internal and external.
- Memory problems.
Conversations must be active not passive. A conversation between people cannot take place without an answer that shows that we understand what the other person has told us, that we have paid attention to their words and that we have interpreted their non-verbal language.
If we want to be an active listener we must be able to go beyond words and form a clear image of the speaker’s emotions and intentions, avoiding inventing interpretations that decorate or give meaning to his words according to our own thoughts. The potential barriers are similar to those found in the previous two competitions.
Although there is no method to learn to listen actively, there are a series of actions that we can take to improve our abilities. Among them the author recommends:
1.- Learn to recognize our cognitive prejudices and observe how they interfere in our conversations.
2.- Do not try to respond immediately. Allow our interlocutor to finish speaking and then offer our answer.
3.- Minimize narcissism in our conversation by adequately controlling the use we make of pronouns. An excess of “I” may indicate an exaggerated desire to divert the conversation to us. Try to use “us” frequently.
4.- Take notes, if possible, during key conversations. Although it may disconcert the speaker, it is relevant on certain occasions to help us to reflect later.
5.- Try to clearly visualize the logic of the person who is speaking in the cases in which we face a discussion. We have to accept the fact that people are seldom willing to change our point of view and that instead of getting angry or frustrated we can try to understand them. If we listen actively we can turn an argument into a calm discussion.
6.- Find reasons to increase our motivation to listen. These can be the desire to establish good relationships, not waste time or make the exchange of ideas as clear as possible.
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