Improve Adult Listening Skills
Every single day, there are a lot of words being said. Whether it is on the news, from the schools, from your neighbors or from your immediate family members, everyone has something to say.
We spend a lot of time expecting our children to listen. We ask them to clean their rooms, do their chores, complete their homework and we get frustrated when they haven’t complied. Have you given much thought to how much you listen now that you are an adult?
Looking to improve your listening skills is something that each and every one of us may want to check into. In order to be a good steward of other people’s feelings, it’s time to figure out if we are really listening when we think we are.
Refrain from Judgement
While someone else is speaking, you may have thoughts, opinions or judgements enter your mind. That is completely normal – we all do it. But it doesn’t mean that you have to listen to yourself right then. Hold what you wanted to say and really try to hear what the other person is getting at. They have a point, whether you agree with it or not. If it is someone you respect, give them the respect of honoring their opinions and listening.
When we really listen to someone instead of waiting for our turn to talk, we are allowing for better communication. And if your friend/partner/neighbor/family member knows that you are really trying to hear them without judgement and you can get through the conversation without spilling any hasty opinions (that may or may not have to do with the exact topic, so watch yourself!), you’re bound to have a better connection – and have your opinions better heard by them as well.
Leave Advice at the Door
Sometimes people just need to vent. They need to get their feelings and concerns out of their bodies as a means of simply maintaining their sanity. You know – I’m sure you do it yourself. It feels good! And in these times where your friend is venting, you get to be the recipient of the information, not a commentator.
If you are listening to someone and they haven’t asked for your advice, don’t give it. We all need to know that we have a safe space in which to let our emotions and concerns out without having to discuss them fully with someone who suddenly has an opinion. Be a shoulder. If someone wants your advice, they will ask.
When you are listening to someone, you need to put everything away and give your undivided attention
to that person. If they walk in while you are doing something and start talking, give them a time frame and explain yourself. “Let me finish this one thing so that I can give you all of my attention. I want to hear what you have to say without distraction.”
You know how it feels when you are trying to talk to someone and they are playing on their phone or watching the ballgame. It doesn’t feel great. Give the other person the time, love and attention that you would want for yourself.
Empathy is a key component when trying to improve your listening skills. Do what you can to put yourself in their shoes as they are speaking. Try to take in what they are feeling – not in the context of your life with your beliefs and expectations, but in the context of theirs.
Let go of the instant replies that pop into your head. We all have our struggles and we’ve all been through challenges. It is a gift to have someone share their honest and raw feelings with you, despite what you may be thinking or have gone through yourself. When we can truly put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we allow ourselves to grow.
Avoid Critical Comments
Part of learning to improve your listening skills is learning what not to say. When responding to someone in a conversation, try to be as positive and open as possible. Any type of criticism is going to make your friend withdraw from speaking much further (or openly), so decide what your goal is. If your goal is to communicate effectively and be a good listener, do that. Be that. If your goal is to win a conversation, understand that this short term goal may feel good in the moment, but it may have negative lasting consequences for your relationship.
Focus on Key Points
When we speak, we often include a lot of details. Don’t get stuck on listening to and critiquing the details of what someone is saying. If they say, “We met at 10:15 and the car broke down,” pay attention to the part where the car broke down, even if you know that they met at 10:30. It has nothing to do with the key point of the story, so let it go.
Focusing on the extraneous details is an easy way to move a conversation off topic and make someone feel unheard. Be a good listener by deciding what pieces of the story are important and which you can let go of immediately. The other person wants to be heard, so remaining focused on the main points of the beginning, middle, and end of the story will help you accomplish that goal.
We all want to be heard and seen by other people, so it is time to learn that silence is a great source of strength. Your silence and attention may be all someone needs in order to feel a connection with you. Be genuine, stay open and really be in the moment with someone so that both you and they know that you are really listening and not just hearing.