While people typically pay more attention to what they want to say and how they want to say it over what other people want to communicate, communication is actually a two-way street. It is as much about listening as it is about talking. Listening isn’t just about understanding the language the message takes on, but also comprehending the thoughts and emotions the speaker is trying to relay. When you are truly listening to someone, you will hear not only their message, but also the subtle intonations in their voice. Not only will the path of communication get stronger, you will also help build a deeper connection between yourself and the speaker.
Remember that you can opt for tons of ways of improving communication, but if you disregard engaged listening, then communication in the workplace will continue to be ineffective.
Here are some tips you may opt for if you want to become an engaged listener – especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you:
1. Put your full focus on the speaker
When a person is speaking, get rid of all distractions. This is one of the ways of improving communication. Fully focus on the speaker, the nonverbal cues he or she is giving off, his or her tone, and of course, the message. Remember how he or she delivers his or her message is as important as the message itself. It is in the delivery that you truly get to understand the thought and emotion behind the message. If you’re thinking about other things, or sending messages on your phone, you might miss out on the person’s delivery. Similarly, if the speaker is distracted, you will be able to pick up on this. If you are having a hard time focusing, try to repeat their words in your head. This not only helps you from getting distracted, it will reinforce their message.
2. Show interest in what is being said
Another one of the ways of improving communication and becoming an engaged listener is by showing interest to what is being said. Nod every once in a while. Have an open posture, and smile at the person to acknowledge him or her. Encourage his or her messaging through positive verbal comments such as “yes”.
3. Avoid interrupting or redirecting the conversation to yourself
Remember that listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. Sometimes we are guilty of having a ready thought or response in our minds while the other person is still talking. If we do this, we won’t be able to fully focus on the speaker; instead, we are focusing on what we want to say.
4. Favour your right ear
Keep a straight posture, and with your chin down, tilt your right ear towards the person speaking. This is because the right side of the body is connected to the left side of the brain, which is responsible for comprehending both speech and emotions. By favouring your right ear towards the speaker, you will have an easier time picking up on not only the content of the speech, but also the emotion behind it.
5. Set aside judgment
You don’t always have to agree with what the speaker is saying or promoting. However, in order to be an engaged listener, you have to be able to withhold judgment. Withholding criticisms will help you understand where the person is coming from.
6. Provide constructive feedback
This is certainly one of the ways of improving communication. When reflecting back on what the speaker had just said, do not simply repeat his or her words verbatim. This will make you sound insincere and unaffected. Instead, use words such as “From what you said, I think what I understand is…” or utilize questions to clarify and confirm particular thoughts.