Have you ever noticed that the words ‘listen’ and ‘silent’ are made up of the same letters? They might look the same in a lot of other ways, too, but they’re really very different.
How do you listen when you’re fascinated with what someone is saying? I bet it’s quite different to the way you listen with ‘half an ear’ when you’re not interested, but just being polite and keeping silent.
When you simply keep silent, you end up listening like a stunned mullet and that’s guaranteed to bring a conversation to a pretty rapid halt. Genuine listening involves your heart, your eyes and your mind, as well as your ears.
That’s hard work and it doesn’t come easily to most people. But it’s worth making the effort because real listening, as opposed to silence, does three precious things for you:
- It helps you build better relationships.
- It helps you find out what’s really going on and what people really think, which makes you more influential and persuasive.
- Listening carefully to someone obliges them to listen carefully to you: the better you listen, the more others listen to you.
So how can you listen, as opposed to just keeping silent? Here are three essentials:
- Put your own thoughts on hold, even when you think you have something more important to say and even when you disagree with what the other person is saying. Try to crawl inside their mind and see matters from their point of view. Listen for their thinking and the logic and feelings behind it.
- Get your body language right. As they say, when your eyes wander, your mind wanders, too. Without facing the other person directly, which can be interpreted as confrontational, orient your body to them at roughly right angles and don’t fidget.
- Show you’re listening with a few nods and grunts – ‘Ahhh’, ‘Uhum’ , ‘Mmmm’ …
With a bit of practice, anyone can be a not-so-silent listener.