The world seems to be constantly flung in two opposite directions. Pro-life or pro choice, capitalism or communism, religion or free thinking, the list is endless. It’s worse when you consider how polarized our choices and politics get, or the heated exchanges that rise from trying to exchange. Don’t get me started on the debates around the recently concluded US elections. Each side is holding on to their side of the conversation and no one is really listening to the other side.
We are actually all guilty of this, even in our day-to-day interactions. For instance, have you ever found yourself in a conversation and a few minutes into the ‘gist’ you realize you didn’t hear a word the speaker said because your mind drifted? Omo! It happens to me quite often and I used to consider myself a good listener.
The problem is, often times, we gravitate towards people who align with our views, so when people don’t begin from our frame of conviction, we zone out. Another thing is, there are just so many distractions and human attention span is legit getting shorter. Lately, I have been training my heart to become a better listener, maybe not with a view to change the world but at least to demonstrate empathy and attentiveness to my speaker. Here are a few approaches I am making.
Cut down distractions
This is tough for me because at every point it time, I constantly have several thoughts running through my mind. However, to become better at listening, you need to cut down and focus. Don’t attempt to multi-task when someone is speaking to you, especially if its something more than casual banter. Zero in on one conversation at a time, you can’t debate or be in conversation with multiple people and expect to give your full attention to everyone.
Avoid interrupting. This is not to say be stoic and silent. Ideally you should affirm the person talking by responding with your facial expressions (for the most part, you can tell if someone is listening or not by their facial expression) and by affirmative ‘Ahs’ and ‘Hmms’ or ‘Uh-huh’. Of course, this all depends on what they’re saying and shouldn’t be forced into the conversation just for the sake of.
Don’t hijack the conversation
Resist the urge to make the conversation about yourself or your beliefs. Also, it is not the time to start telling them your life’s story. I do understand sometimes people do this to make the other party feel like they’re not alone, or when the other party says something they believe to be untrue. But it’s better to allow the speaker exhaust their sentiments and thoughts, then you can discreetly chip in your own story or version of events.
You’d be amazed how much your body language builds trust in a conversation. For instance, I often recommend that people make eye contact when engaged in conversations. I’m not saying you should stare o, lol, that would be creepy. People can tell when you’re distracted or when your heart is not really in the conversation. So practice listening with your body as well.
Do you have any tips for becoming a better listener? Why not share in the comment section 🙂