Effective Listening Skills

by Jayaram V
Do you listen correctly, carefully, adequately, intelligently, unassumingly, quietly and effectively? If you want to be a good listener you have to cultivate the habit of effective listening.
Those who are good at communication know the importance of listening. They will tell you that it more important than even speaking. People like to speak more to listeners than speakers and here in lies the secret of a good relationship.
It is not an exaggeration to say that relationships thrive more on listening skills than on speaking skills. A good speaker may sometimes find himself unwanted in a group, but rarely a good listener.
The following suggestions may help you improve your listening skills.
1. To make listening a regular habit you must start from somewhere. Start from today and for a few days from now on wards, allot at least one hour solely and wholly to listening only.
During this one hour do nothing but listen, with all your attention and concentration. Listen to the sounds and the words as they come to you in their unadulterated state.
Listen without the intervention of any thoughts, without any disturbance in your mind. Enjoy the purity, the beauty and the magic of the sounds.
Concentrate on one sound, or many sounds or on all sounds that come to you at a time. Listen to them in the context of the background in which they arise.
Listen to the distant sounds that are almost inaudible but only by effort can be heard. Listen to the faintest of the sounds such as the ticking of a watch, the movement of the wind, the rustling of the grass or your own breathing. At the end of this exercise listening should have become an integral part of your nature.
2. Try to replay in your mind the various sounds that you hear every day. Try to recreate a particular piece of music or song that appeals to you. Try to recreate mentally the sounds of nature.
Can you recollect the various sounds exactly? Can you recollect various sounds simultaneously? Can you play an entire orchestra mentally in your mind ? Keep practicing till you can say, “Yes” to these questions confidently.
3. A mind that is fully relaxed, alert and free from all cares and worries is most conducive to effective listening. If you want to allow the words of others to enter your mind freely, you must cultivate a free and undisturbed mind and an unassuming personality.
Pay more attention to others, their thoughts and words than to yourself and to your own thoughts and words as you listen.
It is in our eagerness to impress and communicate our thoughts to others that we tend to forget the true act of listening effectively. To become a good listener you must learn to keep yourself in the background. It is through humility we can reach out to the worlds of others.
4. Empathy and rapport are the two wires through which you can connect yourself with the rest of the humanity.
These qualities become natural to you, if you have genuine interest in other people and are willing to step aside and let others speak to you.
Rapport comes when you learn to identify yourselves with other people and empathy when you develop the understanding and sensitivity to feel the feelings and experience the emotions behind the words and gestures.
5. Learn to listen intelligently, trying to understand the others’ view points. Concentrate on the ideas as well, for a better understanding of what you are listening. If you are in an important meeting, a group conversation, or a conference, you can jot down the main ideas briefly, but this should not interfere with your task of listening for understanding and insight.
6. A closed mind cannot absorb new information. A mind that is prejudiced and inimical to certain ideas cannot create an effective listening attitude.
If you want to become an effective listener you must step out of your little egoistic world and set yourself completely free. Of what use is your knowledge, if it limits and obstructs your infinite capacity to grow and expand mentally and spiritually?
You can listen to the words of others only when you have no hidden agenda of your own, if you do not feel threatened by others superiority or the richness of their thoughts and ideas.
When you have nothing to prove to the world except your genuine interest and concern for the freedom of others to express themselves, you allow yourself to become an effective and intelligent listener with a responsive mind and willing heart.
7. Develop a rich vocabulary. The more words you know, the greater will be your capacity to listen and understand. The bigger your vocabulary, the greater will be your capacity to absorb and assimilate the complexity of thoughts.
8. As you listen to others show genuine interest in what they are saying. Seek information, ask questions and clarify your doubts. Do not be a mere passive listener. Keep the conversation alive with your own responses here and there, but without trying to dominate the conversation. Look for the non verbal clues as well.
In the end, remember that listening is a very important part of our daily communication process. It helps us to understand the people and the world around us. it helps us to cope with our own problems effectively. It gives us the space and time needed in our relationships to make them stronger and last longer.
But you should also remember that you cannot live in this world only by listening. Sometimes when the occasion demands, when you truly believe that something very important is at stake, you have to speak out your mind and make your stand very clear.
Many problems arise in our lives because in crucial moments we hesitate to speak and make ourselves clear. If our children, close friends or relations, or our colleagues need some improvement or certain correction in their behavior or attitude, they need to be told in no uncertain terms what is expected of them. But even on such occasions one should listen carefully before speaking out ones mind.
In the final analysis, like any others tool, listening can be used as a part of ones choice and discretion. A good listener is always in a better position to deal with his problems and relationships.
He is accepted every where and welcome into every conversation. He rarely involves himself in controversies and misunderstanding. He has nothing to prove and nothing to show off to the world. He has nothing to lose but only gain the richness of his understanding.
Therefore remember this wonderful law of communication: Listen as much as possible, but speak only when it is a must.

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