Whether we realise it or not, we’ve all been guilty of not listening enough. After all it seems easier to present your thoughts or arguments before we’ve even listened to the other person. One thing we all agree on is that we’d like to become better at pretty much any interaction we have with other people; we’d all want to be more successful.
One of the most overlooked traits in the success formula is active listening but how do we do it. Here are the 5 major obstacles and how to overcome them to become more successful in any interaction you conduct at work, home or when out during your social life.
What helped me concoct this article is the notes from one of the courses I attended while employed at Symantec – great company to work for by the way, great people!
Obstacle 1: Distractions
Tips to overcome it:
- When you need to talk to someone, choose a time and place that will allow you to focus on the conversation
- Remove anything in front of you that might become a distraction when you talk to someone .. hm.. mobile phone comes to mind!
- If you need to finish something, ask the speaker to wait a few moments before he or she begins. Then give the speaker your full attention
- When talking on the phone, remind yourself that without visual cues such as body language, it can be harder to follow everything the other person is saying
Obstacle 2: Emotions (yes, it can be an obstacle)
- If a particular word or topic evokes a negative emotional response in you, consider that the speaker may not have meant to offend or upset you
- Wait for the speaker to finish speaking and then take some time to formulate a response – don’t interrupt or lash out
- Make a mental note of the topics or words that evoke a strong emotional reaction in you and work on it
- Be aware of your level of respect for the speaker. Try to focus on what people are saying rather than on who they are
- Allow that other people may become emotional when they talk about something they feel strongly about. Their emotions may actually provide you with important information about the message.
Obstacle 3: Ulterior motives
- Make a mental note when you feel the urge to impress, influence, or compete with someone, and aim to prevent this from affecting your ability to listen well
- Avoid finishing other people’s sentences for them out of a desire to help
- Avoid trying to steer a conversation to suit your own agenda
- Avoid interrupting a speaker to offer advice or your own opinions. Instead allow the speaker to finish
- Try not to mistake a straightforward conversation for a debate or argument.
Obstacle 4: Assumptions
- Wait until the other person has finished speaking before you formulate a response
- Don’t assume you know where the speaker is going with the message – you could be surprised
- Remember that interrupting gives people the impression that you don’t value what they have to say
- Remember that by cutting someone off, you could miss out on valuable information that you weren’t expecting to hear
Obstacle 5: Speed gap
- Be mindful of the speed gap, remembering that it can make it difficult to focus on what a speaker is saying
- When listening to a slow speaker, use the time to mentally go over what the person is saying to make sure you understand the message
- Use the speed gap to make note of the speaker’s tone of voice, body language, eye contact, and choice of words for more information about what they are trying to say
- When you feel your mind start to wander, stop and refocus on the conversation.