Some people find themselves at the brink of disaster just because they failed to listen. Here are ways you can practice your listening skills on a daily basis.
1. Maintain good eye contact. Face the person talking to you and be attentive. (Put down the newspaper; turn off the TV or PC).
2. Sit attentively. For a few minutes, act as if nothing else in the world matters except hearing out the person communicating to you. Block all other distractions from your mind. Lean forward in your chair as if you are hanging on every word.
3. Show interest in what you are about to hear. Raise your eyebrows, nod your head in agreement, smile or laugh when appropriate.
4. Sprinkle your attentive listening with appropriate phrases to show interest and understanding. "I agree." "Is that so?" "Great!" "I understand what you mean” The person talking to you would like to know you understand the ideas being presented.
5. Ask well-phrased questions. Give encouragement by asking questions that illustrate your interest.
6. Listen a little longer. Just when you think you are through listening, listen 30 seconds longer.
Men and women have different listening styles. According to studies conducted on the listening habits of the sexes women and men have different ways of showing they are listening. Women will tend to include affirmative head nodding and other positive listening habits more frequently than men. Men include fewer of these behaviors in their listening. This leaves women with the impression that their husbands aren’t listening and men with the impression that their wives are over listening.
Furthermore, what men and women mean by their listening behaviors may differ vastly. When women nod their heads and say “uh-huh,” they do so to indicate that they are listening and understand what is being said. Men use listening noises more to show agreement. It could be that men are hearing as much as women but are agreeing less!
This complicates the listening process. But what is consistent is that men and women’s listening behaviors both focus on communication. Using listening behaviors to show interest and caring rather than merely agreement serves the emotional aspects of the relationship, a primary focus for women. Using listening behaviors to show agreement with what was said focuses on content or the nuts and bolts of a conversation, the primary focus for men. So, in listening, as well as in many other aspects of communication, men and women remain consistent in style.
Many of us think listening is something we do with our ears. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ears are involved in the listening process, but true listening goes beyond only hearing what is said. True listening demonstrates caring. Those who listen carefully show they care. Are you doing all you can do?
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