Listening is one of those actions we perform every day with little conscious awareness. Serving as a coach, I realize it’s often more exhausting to listen for three hours than to speak for that same amount of time. Why is that? It’s because effective listening is more than just auditory perception as shown by the Traditional Chinese character shown above. It’s the gift of time, undivided attention, and understanding. Effective listening is the catalyst for better relationships, improved capacity for problem-solving, and so much more. The high-tech and virtual world we live in today makes listening more important than ever. Here are three things to remember if you want to sharpen your listening skills.
Maintain Eye Contact
Words represent a fraction of the information that is transmitted when we communicate. Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer researcher of body language in the 1950s, found that the total impact of a message is about 7 percent verbal and 93 percent nonverbal. Therefore, maintaining eye contact with the other person can help you catch a lot more information than otherwise.
Remove Internal and External Distractions
When was the last time you gave your undivided attention to someone you were talking to? We should never get into a conversation if we are not ready to give our undivided attention to the other person. Effective listening means focusing on the other person with the primary purpose of understanding. When the world seems to conspire against you, someone’s empathy and compassion may make you feel valued again.
Our perceptual filters can be the biggest barrier to effective listening. Reducing prejudice means keeping our negative attitudes or evaluations of those who don’t look like us. We can listen effectively only when we acknowledge and appreciate everyone’s uniqueness. After all, if you want others to celebrate your uniqueness, why not do the same to others?
Imagine a world where everyone felt heard and understood? Wouldn’t you want to live in such a world? I would! May these simple yet powerfully transformative principles inspire you to help create a culture built around empathy and love.