Being a better listener can make you a better confidante.
We’re all guilty of zoning out from time to time when someone is talking to us. It’s a perfectly human response – in fact, scientists believe that the human attention span is a mere 8 seconds! While drifting into the occasional daydream doesn’t matter quite so much when you’re listening to a boring teacher talk, it’s definitely something you want to avoid doing while someone is confiding in you about their worries. Try these top tips to up your listening game!
- REMOVE DISTRACTIONS
Turn off your mobile phone or put it away to avoid you being distracted by the beep of a notification or incoming text message. Clear your mind and do your best to ignore any possible distractions, such as the outside noise from a nearby window or the sound from a TV in the next room. Only by removing and ignoring distractions can you really give your full attention to the other person.
- PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES
Empathy is a big part of being a good listener – listen to what the person is telling you and try to imagine how you’d feel if you were experiencing the same issues. This can help you truly understand the level of emotion they’re feeling. When you express a genuinely sympathetic response, the other person will feel as if they’ve been heard and understood. This can encourage them to open up to you because they feel supported and safe.
- NO JUDGEMENT ZONE
Try to listen to people without judgement. Give them space and time to talk openly without fear of being reproached. Be mindful of your body language – humans find it very easy to spot when someone disagrees with us! The raise of an eyebrow, the pursing of lips, perhaps a subconscious frown or slight shake of the head can all give us away.
You might privately disagree with something but will voicing this make the person feel better or help them deal with whatever situation it is that they’re facing? Weigh up your thoughts before you voice them – give careful consideration to whether your take will add any value or potentially close the conversation down.
- POSITIVE BODY LANGUAGE
You can use your body to show someone that you’re really listening to them. Relax your arms and place them in your lap or by your side – crossed arms can make you appear guarded. Lean forward to show your interest and nod gently to encourage the person to talk, but don’t overdo this. Too much and you’ll come off as insincere and even a bit intense! Sensitive and well-timed body movements can reassure a person that you’re properly listening; ill-timed, over-dramatic responses will have the opposite effect.
- REFLECT BACK
Listen carefully and think about what you’ve heard. Summarise what you’ve learned and speak this back to the person. This reaffirms to them that you’ve been properly listening to their words and can then form and voice your opinion having truly heard all the facts. Balance your words carefully – it’s OK to have a different opinion to your friend so don’t feel like you have to agree with everything they say. Be open and honest in your views but, again, decide which of your thoughts are a helpful input.
For more help with listening and talking, click here.