Communication skills are among the most coveted of soft skills, but good communicators are pretty rare. Why? Because communication, frankly, is tough and complicated. Perhaps it would be best to look at communication skills by breaking them down into essential components. When we do that, we find that at the heart of every good communication, and every good communicator, is a good listener.
So, with that in mind, consider this list of listening skills every professional could benefit from building. How many do you bring to the table?
- Good listeners demonstrate a desire to build understanding, first and foremost.
Good listeners know that fully understanding the meaning and message being conveyed is their first and primary job. So, before they start jumping in with advice, guidance, or “a way to look at it differently,” they first make sure that they completely understand the other person’s position. They ask questions as needed, and they don’t interrupt. A good listener lets the person they’re speaking with know, through their actions as well as their words, that developing this kind of acute comprehension is their top priority. This, in turn, promotes and builds not just a richer understanding but also trust between the two parties.
- They verify that they got the right message.
Misunderstandings are all too common, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t easily dealt with when they crop up, or that they can’t be avoided in the first place. Good listeners know this. Even after they’ve taken the time to ask questions and listen thoroughly, even once they’ve demonstrated how much they’d like to understand, they still take the time to check that understanding before moving on. They ask, “So, just to be sure I understand correctly, what you’re saying is that…” By restating the original contribution back to the speaker in their own words, good listeners verify that they’ve gotten the correct message before moving forward in the conversation, and they avoid many misunderstandings as well as a lot of wasted time.
- They pay attention to body language.
Good listeners pay attention to all aspects of communication, not just the verbal variety. For example, it’s very important to notice when body language doesn’t line up with what’s being said. A good listener can tell when someone’s heart isn’t really behind what they’re saying, and they dig a little deeper to get at the truth of the matter. Similarly, good listeners are aware of their own body language. They don’t check their watch, look over the speaker’s shoulder, or fold their arm across their chests. Instead, they make a point to project an image that says they have all the time in the world for this conversation, and that they’re glad to be having it.
- They get involved.
Good listeners know that their work doesn’t end when they’ve accurately and thoroughly heard the intended message. They know that the person they’re speaking with is looking for something from them, or at least hoping for it. No matter the circumstances, every communication deserves a response. Engaging with the conversation, and getting involved in a way that moves things forward is important, too. Regardless of the specific nature of a talk, a good listener applies the understanding they’ve worked so hard to build and offers something of their own before they leave the conversation — their perspective.
Good listeners eventually share their own unique perspective during conversations by combining an understanding of what they’ve heard with what they already know and think. It’s important to keep in mind that the need to share points of view is what sparked the chat in the first place. At the end of the day, good listeners don’t just listen, they get involved in conversations in meaningful ways .
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