I got off the phone with my wife about an hour ago.  She was just checking in and was telling me about her plans for the day. I had just remembered something I wanted to tell her and started to ring her back when it hit me – I couldn’t remember what she said she was doing today and if she would answer the phone at home or on her mobile. Didn’t she just tell me this only an hour ago? Is my memory failing me as I get one year closer to 40? Or, was I not listening when she told me?

We are all guilty of multi-tasking. Despite trying to rationalize it as being productive, it has been proven to make us less efficient and, when conversing with someone, less attentive.

Here’s a top 10 list from the Dumb Little Man – Tips for Life blog to help improve our listening. Now, if I can just remember where I left my keys…

  1. Minimize both internal and external distractions. You can’t always get rid of a headache, but you can close the windows if the driver of a truck is outside revving his engine.
  2. Adjust your listening to the situation. If you’re listening to a lecture for an exam in Biology class, you’ll want to pay closer attention than if you’re watching the local news. In the former situation, you’ll probably take notes.
  3. Show you’re listening by your nonverbal communication. You might nod, shake your head, or raise your eyebrows. Adjust your posture accordingly. Make eye contact.
  4. If you’re listening to a speech or attending a business meeting, determine the most important points and develop a method to remember them. You might repeat them mentally or even jot them down briefly.
  5. When you’re listening to a friend with a problem, demonstrate empathy. Show her you understand what she is going through.
  6. Realize that people don’t necessarily want you to solve their problem. They may simply want to share how they are feeling. Save advice for another time, unless you’re asked for it.
  7. Don’t interrupt. Let the person finish what he is saying before you explain your point of view or ask questions.
  8. Don’t prejudge a person’s message by the way he looks. You can learn something from almost anyone.
  9. Stay focused on the subject. It’s easy to let your mind wander, especially if the subject isn’t important to you. Train yourself to concentrate.
  10. Remain clearheaded, even if the topic is emotional. Perhaps someone is discussing the victories of the recent election, and you were passionate about a losing candidate. When emotions become involved, you may end up in the middle of a shouting match, which will resolve nothing. Present your points calmly. You’ll gain credibility by doing so.
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