How To Listen Well

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Do you want to master the art of listening? If you tend to zone out when someone’s talking, or you notice that people don’t often choose you as a confidant, it’s time to start practicing this skill. Taking an active, engaged approach to listening will improve your relationships and enrich your experience of the world. If you want to learn how to listen with undivided attention and respond in a way that keeps people talking, keep reading.

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Remove distractions. The first thing you should do when someone starts talking is to put away anything that might distract you from his or her words. Turn off the television, close your laptop and put down anything else you are reading or doing. It’s very difficult to hear and understand what someone is saying when you are surrounded by other sounds or activities vying for your attention.

  • Whether the conversation you are having is over the phone or in person, it can help to move to a room that is free from distractions. Go to a place where you won’t be interrupted by other people.

Many people find it easier to have deep conversations outdoors, where there are fewer distracting screens and gadgets. Try going for a walk in the park or in your neighborhood.

Stay focused. When the other person speaks, focus on what they are saying. Don’t let your mind jump ahead to what you think you should say in reply. Watch the person’s face, eyes and body.What is the other person really trying to say?

  • Part of staying focused and really listening involves interpreting a person’s silences and noticing his or her body language, too. These nonverbal ways of communicating are just as important as words.

Be unselfconscious. Many find it hard to concentrate during conversations because they feel self conscious about how they appear to the other person. It may help to know that if someone is speaking their mind to you, it isn’t likely that they’re judging you at the same time. The speaker is grateful that you’re lending a listening ear. Part of being a good listener is having the ability to stop thinking about yourself during the conversation. If you’re busy thinking about your own insecurities or needs, you aren’t paying attention to what the other person is saying.

Be empathetic. Another key to listening is being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If someone is confiding in you about his or her troubles, step outside yourself and imagine what it’s like to be him or her. True communication happens when people understand each other. Find common ground with the person who is speaking and do your best to see things from his or her point of view.

Become a better hearer. You’re probably heard it said that there’s a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is a the physical act of sensing sounds, while listening is the ability to interpret those sounds as a way to understand the world and other people. The nuances in what you hear should inform the conclusions you make as a listener. For example, a person’s tone of voice can indicate whether he is she is joyful, depressed, angry or scared. Ultimately, honing your sense of hearing will make you a better listener.

  • Work on your sense of hearing by paying more attention to sounds. When was the last time you closed your eyes and let your sense of hearing take the wheel? Stop once in a while and just listen to your surroundings so you can better appreciate the knowledge that can be gained by hearing.

Listen to music more carefully. We are so used to having music in the background now that we don’t often make it the sole focus. Close your eyes and really listen to an entire song or album. Try to pick out individual sounds. If many elements are present, such as in symphonic music, try listening to a single instrument as it travels through the flow of the entire orchestra.

Lean forward a little. This simple body language indicates to the person speaking that you are interested in hearing more.[1] Your body should be facing the person who is talking, and your torso should be at a slight forward angle. The lean doesn’t have to be over pronounced to be effective.

Make eye contact, but not too much. Making eye contact during a conversation also indicates that the person to whom you’re listening has your undivided attention. Eye contact is a very important way to establish open lines of communication. However, you don’t want to sustain eye contact for a prolonged period of time, because that can make the person speaking feel uncomfortable.

  • Research shows that during one-on-one conversations, most people make 7-10 seconds of eye contact before looking away.

Nod in acknowledgement. Nodding your head is another effective way of showing people you’re talking to that you’re right their with them. You can nod in agreement or as a way of nudging the person to say more. Just make sure you nod during appropriate points in the conversation; if you nod when someone tells you something disagreeable, they may feel you aren’t really listening.

  • You can also encourage the person to keep going with short verbal comments, like “yes,” “I see,” or “uh huh.”

Don’t fidget or slouch. Make sure your body language conveys interest, not boredom. If you’re busy picking your nails, tapping your feet, crossing your arms or leaning your head on your hand, most people will end the conversation quickly so as not to bore you out of your mind. Sit up straight to show that you’re engaged in the conversation.

  • If you are disabled and need to fidget in order to listen, find discreet ways to do so, such as wiggling a foot or squeezing a stress ball with your hand resting on the table. If it’s not right in front of their face, they probably won’t mind. If your conversation partner mentions it, explain that this helps you listen, and ask them to continue.

Use appropriate facial expressions. Remember that listening is active, not passive. It’s important to react to people’s words – otherwise, they may as well be writing in their journals. Show you’re interested by smiling, laughing, frowning, shaking your head, an making other expressions and gestures that are right for the moment.

Don’t interrupt. It’s rude to interrupt someone while they’re talking, because it shows that you aren’t really listening – you’re too eager to make sure your own two cents are heard. If you tend to jump in with your opinion before the other person has finished speaking, make a point of quitting your habit of interrupting. Wait until a person has finished his or her thought before you speak.

  • If you do interrupt (everyone does it from time to time), it’s a good idea to apologize and ask the person to please continue what he or she was saying.

Ask questions. Keep other people talking by asking questions that indicate you’ve been listening and would like to know more. You can ask a simple leading question, like “What happened next?” Or something specific to the topic at hand. Chiming in with phrases like “I agree!” and “Me, too” can also help to move the conversation along.

  • You can repeat what someone is telling you as a way to clarify his or her point
  • It’s up to you to decide how personal your questions should be. If your questions are interpreted as crossing a line, the conversation will quickly shut down.
  • Don’t be critical. Be open to understanding the other person’s point of view, even if you’re discussing a subject upon which you disagree. Criticizing the person for saying something you found inadequate or silly is a sure way to keep the person from confiding in you again. A good listener stays as nonjudgmental as possible. If you have a counterargument, wait until the person is finished making his or her point before stating it.
  • Have an honest response. When it’s your turn to speak, respond honestly and openly – but always politely. Offer advice if the person requested it. If you want the relationship to grow, and you trust the person to whom you’re talking, be willing to share your own opinions and feelings in return. Contributing something of yourself to the conversation brings the act of listening full circle.
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Becoming a Better Leader

Have you ever thought about the steps you can take to improve your knowledge and expertise in order to become a better leader within your company, within your industry, or within your community?

The online business space is pretty crowded these days, and one of the major ways you can stand out from the rest of the businesses in your industry is to be viewed as a leader. 

What being a leader means

Well, according to Google a “leader” is a person who leads or commands a group, organization or country.

I’ll take that, and add a bit to it:

A leader is someone who has a certain amount of expertise in whatever industry or niche they are in, and they are willing – and do – share their insights with those around them through writing, speaking and taking action.

They are good at not only sharing their lessons learned, expertise and insights, but also at teaching others how to apply that so they don’t make the same mistakes. A leader is trusted, holds authority and is viewed as a credible source by those who follow.

They deliver consistent value with integrity and passion, they learn to take responsibility for their actions, and they’re always willing to go the extra mile.

 

Sounds like a pretty good gig, right?

But how exactly do you go about becoming a better leader? Well, it takes time, patience, hard work and a lot of dedication.

7 steps to becoming a better leader

1. Follow leaders who you look up to

This is sort of like writers following the writers they admire. If you’re following true leaders, then you’ll have a lot to learn from them in order to become a better leader yourself.

Take Action: Pick out 2, 3 or even 4 leaders who you admire – either for their speaking abilities, their expertise in a particular industry or niche, their ability to teach others who can learn from their mistakes – and read their articles, follow their speaking engagements and check out their presence on social media and within online communities. You’ll soon find that leaders have an effective way of getting out there and being seen and heard.

2. Practice the things that make you uncomfortable

A lot of you who want to become better leaders probably know exactly what it takes to get there, but the reason you’re not a better leader right now is that you’re scared of those things.

These things might include becoming a better speaker, building stronger relationships, taking yourself out of your comfort zone for travel and other engagements… Guess what? All of these things will help you become a better leader.

Take Action: Start practicing those things that make you uncomfortable with a mentor or friend. Before you know it, you’ll not only become better at doing these things, you might actually grow to like them!

Anything that makes you uncomfortable WILL make you stronger after you’ve achieved it.

3. Tell yourself every day that you’re a leader (and believe it!)

You love staying on the negative side of things, right? You’re not good enough at this, or strong enough at that. It’s comforting to know these things because it means you can’t fail. How can you fail at something you’re not even good at in the first place?

If you already know you can’t do it, then it won’t be a surprise when you don’t.

To become a leader, you have to believe that you are a leader, and then start ACTING like one.

Take Action: Look at yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself every day that you are a leader.

4. Learn something new about your expertise, industry or niche every day

I don’t care what expertise you have, or what industry or niche you’re in; these days, things are changing by the minute.

In order to maintain your leadership level and your expertise – your ability to teach people things that will keep them from making the same mistakes you did – you need to stay on top of the changes that are happening around you.

Take Action: Do keyword searches for words and phrases that are trending in your business world. Then, find relevant articles, writers and publications who keep up with the latest and greatest and add them to your Feedly, (or whatever platform  you use to track your favorite feeds). This way, you’ll be able to go to a single source for updates relevant to your industry or niche. 

5. Gather resources you use and that you would recommend to others

If you’re being looked at as an authority figure by others, then you better believe you’re the one those people will be looking to for resources and advice. This is why it’s important to have a collection of resources that you not only have used and believe in yourself, but that you also feel strongly about recommending to others.

Take Action: Every time you use a new resource or tool, take notes on your experience with it. Once you have an ongoing list of resources, you can start to build out a resources page on your site to share with your followers.

Note: Your credibility depends on these recommendations, so choose wisely.

6. Read

In addition to following leaders who you look up to, and learning something new about your expertise, industry or niche every day, it’s also important to read, read, read!

Take Action: Make a list of the top 5 business books you want to read, and set a date that you want to have them finished by. Then, hold yourself accountable to that date.

7. Build and grow your relationships

Building and growing your relationships will no doubt, 100% help you become a better leader. The more connected you are, the more people you have to bounce ideas off from and share feedback with, the better off you’ll be.

I can’t think of a single leader who “went at it alone”. You need support and motivation, those who will hold you accountable and who will act as a sounding board for feedback and recommendations.

Take Action: Write down 10 names of people who you feel that – either by building or growing upon your relationship – both of you would benefit. Then, reach out to those people and connect. If they’re in your geographical area, then try to set a time to meet for coffee. If they aren’t in your geographical area, then send them a note and ask how things are going with their business, and whether or not there is anything you can do to help. You can also see if these people are planning to attend any upcoming conferences or speeches, and try to connect with them in person if you’ll be in the same place at the same time.

What becoming a better leader means

Becoming a better leader means growing your expertise in whatever industry or niche you’re in; being willing – and able – to share your insights with those around you; being good at not only sharing your expertise and insights, but also at teaching others how to apply them so they don’t make the same mistakes; and being someone who your followers can trust and view as an authority figure.

It also means big potential for your business.

Deliver value with integrity and passion, and your fans and followers will always be there.

Learn to take responsibility for your actions, and use your failures and missteps as learning experiences. You’ll be amazed by the lessons you can carry with your for years to come, and how those lessons can truly help others.

Make helping others achieve their goals through sharing the lessons learned, skills and knowledge you already have BIGGER than your own fears.

When the going get’s tough, keep on going.

It’s never crowded along the extra mile. – Wayne Dyer