When talking about skills needed during presentations, we never fail to mention the importance of speaking well. However, what’s often neglected is the significance of listening well. When presenting (or even communicating in general for that matter), knowing how to listen is just as crucial. As a presenter, being able to listen well can help you better respond to questions and empathize, evaluate audience feedback and gauge your overall performance as a speaker.
Yet, how many times have we assumed that when we hear, we already listen? Consequently, we assume that listening should come naturally or automatic for all of us. Moreover, while we are clearly aware when others don’t listen to us, we’re not nearly as attentive when we ourselves don’t actively listen.
So if you want to be more mindful of becoming a better listener, listen up! Here are 12 tips for you to consider:
- Listen to understand, not just to reply
- Be empathetic
- Be encouraging
- Don’t interrupt incessantly
- Pay attention to non-verbal communication
- Avoid showing signs you’re about to respond
- Ask open-ended questions if possible
- Ask the other person if they felt they’ve been heard
- Remember crucial details
- Don’t immediately act defensive
- Maintain an open mind
- Follow up
Listen to understand, not just to reply
Avoid thinking ahead. Stop once you catch yourself thinking of a response beforehand instead of just being engaged. Moreover, don’t pressure yourself into giving the perfect response. Sometimes, all the other party needs is to be heard or express himself.
Unlike being sympathetic, being empathetic is really trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and not making them feel you’re simply pitying them.
Provide subtle but helpful feedback. Show you’re really listening by establishing eye contact to a comfortable degree. Aside from eye contact, you can nod your head, slightly lean towards the speaker or give other suitable gestures that you’re hearing them. But avoid excessive use of certain words. While words like “I see” or “Right” show you’re listening, saying them too often can be annoying or distracting.
Don’t interrupt incessantly
Allow the other person to express everything before weighing in. It is therefore crucial to practice patience while listening as not everyone can easily express what they want or open up as quickly as you may do.
Pay attention to non-verbal communication
Sometimes, these indicate more crucial things than what is being said. Read between the lines. Recognizing any other hidden message within the message that’s being expressed allows you to connect with others more effectively. Likewise, be conscious of your own body language or facial expressions which may give the wrong impression. Crossing your arms for example can indicate resistance even when you’re just really nervous or doing it out of habit.
Avoid showing signs you’re about to respond
Opening your mouth for instance gives others the impression you’re no longer interested in what they have to further say and more interested with how you’re going to respond. This considered, ensure that the other person has finished before talking. Sometimes, they’re simply stopping to gather their thoughts and have not finished speaking.
Ask open-ended questions if possible
Notice the frequency of which professional therapists do this? In certain situations, this can make the other person feel more valued.
Ask the other person if they felt they’ve been heard
Sometimes, directly asking this can also get them to feel important. Furthermore, confirm understanding. To show interest, summarize and restate what you just heard to clarify you understood them correctly.
Remember crucial details
Showing you recall important names, dates or events will also likewise show you’ve been actively listening. Take notes if needed.
Don’t immediately act defensive
This is a common mistake of presenters when asked questions that put them on the spot. Instead, resist the urge to be emotional and defend yourself immediately when you’re feeling attacked or criticized. Take time to relax and reflect on this before responding.
Maintain an open mind
While listening, temporarily set aside your pre- assumptions, opinions or beliefs. If you can’t keep a blank mind, at least never assume that the other person has nothing new to say.
If there’s a chance for you, ask how things are going along even after the conversation. This not only demonstrates you listened but also empathized.
We all have 2 ears and only one mouth for a reason: to be more of listeners than speakers. Becoming an active listener not just makes you a better presenter but also expands your understanding and allows you to view the world through the eyes of others. And while being a good listener is not an overnight accomplishment, a sincere desire, effort and practice can eventually transform you as a communicator up until such time that the above tips no longer become rules you consciously follow but are deeply embedded within your subconscious conversation style.
What other tips can you share to be a better listener? Let us know through your comments below.