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How to listen effectively during a conversation
One of the ways to improve our relationships with those around us is to enhance on our capability to listen. Often, when we have a conversation with a friend, partner, acquaintance or stranger, we unknowingly try to exert our presence by already forming opinions about the other party, even though do not necessarily voice them out.
We have been conditioned to react at greater speeds than ever before. Computer games, different forms of electronic entertainment and media often engages our senses to a heightened extent, particularly our auditory and visual senses. It has caused the rate of information that we absorb in a short period of time, say within a minute to be intensified.
However, when we attempt active and emphatic listening in a face to face conversation, the dynamics are somewhat different from communicating through social media. While social media has its merits, it has also caused our communication skills to take an unnatural turn.
We always have the tendency to exert our 'expert knowledge' or 'opinions' on a particular issue on the social media and many a time, we tend to get immediate attention be it in terms of agreement, disagreement or mockery. Unlike face to face conversations, particularly in a highly important matter, communication through social media does not pick up subtle changes of body language. Hence to listen actively and effectively to another person in a face to face conversation, there are several pointers to adhere to.
1) Give undivided attention. Notice how new lovers talk to each other? I am not suggesting that you provide exactly the same type of lovey dovey attention, but what I am trying to illustrate is that providing undivided attention is a capability that is inbuilt within us. Remove the need to check messages or emails, the price of the shares and updates your rank in the game that you have installed in your smartphone.
2) Do not get easily distracted. This is slightly different from the previous point. Yeah sometimes there's a really attractive person who just passed by and you can't help but to glance. Do not keep on glancing though, you are indicating that the conversation that you are having with the person right in front of you as unimportant.
3) Have the conversation in a safe and non distracting environment if it is of great importance. A cafe or coffee joint would be ideal. If it you feel that the other party would feel uncomfortable having someone eavesdropping at the conversation, choose a quiet spot. This is obvious. If the conversation is so urgent that it needs to commence while you are still commuting in the public transportation, make sure that is not where the bulk of the conversation is going to take place. As a rule of thumb, try not to have an important conversation while driving or doing anything else that requires even more attention than the other party.
4) Suspend your judgement, opinions or solutions unless the other person asks for it. Often, when someone needs to have a heart to heart talk on a particular issue, the primary need is your attention. Everyone has a unique daily life experience, perception and personal history, do not assume that you perfectly understand what the other person is saying. Ask questions if you are in doubt. Avoid interjecting the words of the other party.
5)Watch for changes in body language. A slight drop in the shoulders may signify sadness or hopelessness, a downward tilting gaze may illustrate guilt or sadness, a change in the tone and volume of voice may signify changes in emotions. Similarly a change in the pace of speech may also indicate variations in emotions. Be sensitive to changes and movement of the body language.
6) Keep your mind open. Something that appear to be mundane or trivial may mean a lot to the other party. If you are conversing with someone of a different ethnic, socio cultural or national background, there are variations in their norms and yours. It is best to keep an open mind.
7) Repeat or paraphrase what the other party has just said to you. This could be a salvaging point especially if you're the type of listener that tends to be restless and have difficulty focusing on a conversation while sitting down. This gesture is not meant to mock your friends or partner, but simply to reassure them that you've indeed paid attention and are interested in what they have to say, rather than just asking them questions for the sake of asking. Plus , it gives the other party a chance to clarify, in case you have missed out something.
Listening is an art that can be practiced over time. As with an old idiom that is prevalent in the Asian society that I grew up in that goes ; 'You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen more than you speak'. By listening emphatically, attentively and not to forget sincerely, you get to understand the other party in a much better manner amd earn his or her respect and frienship. You might also learn a thing or two from that person.
Written by Abraham A.L. on 14th Dec 2015.
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