5 sure ways to improve your listening skills
The art of listening goes beyond the physical act of looking at a person when they speak to you. Without emotional involvement, you could just be gazing at the speaker without really hearing or understanding what they are saying. Worse still, statistics show that most communication is done through body language (60%), and only 10% through the words we speak (Covey, 1989). No wonder there is a lot of guessing game with most communication.
1. Empathic listening
Empathic listening goes beyond looking at the speaker and appearing to listen to them. It is not only paying attention to the speaker but listening with compassion and identifying with their emotion. It involves removing bias, affiliation, opinion and judgement, and fully “listening with our eyes, ears and heart” (Covey, 1989). In empathic listening, the listener seeks to understand the speaker’s viewpoint by imagining to be in that circumstance while disregarding their own opinions or feelings towards the situation.
Empathic listening is not the same as sympathetic listening. Empathy is feeling as someone whereas sympathy is feeling for someone. Empathic listening is therapeutic. Sympathetic listening offers support and comfort, especially in times of adversity.
2. Diagnose before you prescribe
Sounds familiar? that is because it is a fundamental principle in medicine and healthcare. There has to be the process of consulting with a physician, carrying out relevant laboratory and diagnostic testing, receiving results back and evaluating the results to arrive at a diagnosis before offering treatment options. This analogy drives home the importance of listening first to understand the speaker’s point of view before attempting to advise.
3. Perception is key
Being on the same page as the speaker facilitates understanding, reduces tension and increases the chances of having a productive, interdependent personal or professional relationship. Being on the same page does not necessarily mean agreeing with the speaker, but rather a show of genuine commitment and willingness to have successful communication by listening to and understanding the speaker.
4. The concept of Ethos, Pathos and Logos
(a) Ethos is the character component that helps build credibility and give people the reason to believe that you have integrity and are competent.
(b) Pathos is the relationship component responsible for creating appeal to the feeling of the other person and convincing them that you are emotionally invested in the effort and causing them to trust you.
(c) Logos, which is the logic component serves to justify the logic behind your reasoning and gives the other person the reason for your thoughts.
5. Allowing the speaker to lead the conversation
Many people are guilty of violating this basic rule of active listening. Doing otherwise relegates the speaker to the background and does not allow them to fully express their thoughts. It is therefore essential for the listener to resist the urge to shut the speaker down by driving the conversation towards their own areas of interest.