This month marks the Samaritans yearly campaign ‘Talk to us’ which explores why we should try to become better listeners. As we know at Hey Me, communication is key across the board whether it’s at home, in the workplace or at work. So today we’re going to discuss why and how we can all become better listeners.
Why should we improve our ability to listen effectively?
There is a range of benefits to improving our ability to listen, from building relationships to being more productive.
In our personal relationships, clear communication is an important element and listening is a big part of the puzzle. Your friends and loved ones knowing they can come to you means you will have a more open, honest and supportive relationship. It also means you will have more fulfilling, engaging conversations when you are both attentive and interested.
When it comes to people struggling with hardship or mental health issues, as the Samaritans aim is to bring awareness to, knowing someone out there is going to stand by you and provide a listening ear, it can mean a lot for your friends and relatives to know that you are there for them.
In the workplace
Collaborating and establishing relationships with your co-workers is so important on both a professional and personal level.
On both levels becoming a better listener will ensure that you have a rewarding and productive work relationship. When problems arise conflict resolution and problem-solving will be easier and less anxiety-inducing.
With many of us having to work from home during the pandemic learning to communicate remotely has become central to our work relationships. Setting expectations and boundaries is helpful, for instance, deciding on the channels you’ll use to communicate or how often.
Building successful rapport with clients also revolves around successful listening ability. Understanding what your clients want and expect is paramount to an effective working relationship.
If you work with consumers or in comms, then you know listening is also central to the work that you do. Being attentive to consumer needs and responses will help with the development of projects and campaigns. ‘Social listening’, the monitoring of social media to discover conversations about your brand and popular opinion is useful in gauging what’s going well.
How can we improve our ability to listen effectively?
It seems like there are endless ways better listening can be helpful. But how can we actually improve our ability to listen? One method we can use is to practice active listening.
- Paying attention
This is a central aspect of active listening and may sound easier than it is. We often get distracted in conversation especially by phones and other tech. Being present and attentive is the first step to becoming a better listener. So put the tech away and settle in for a mindful chat.
- Withholding judgement
Once you are in the full swing of a conversation it’s important to withhold judgement. Try to stay open-minded and supportive rather than judging or critical.
Reflecting or mirroring back what the other person has said is another useful active listening technique and shows you are listening and processing what they are saying.
- Using brief verbal affirmations and body language
Making sure to use language such as ‘I see’ or ‘yes’ can show you are listening actively as well as body language cues such as nodding.
If you don’t understand something, make sure to clarify. Asking questions can also encourage self-reflection and problem solving, particularly open-ended and probing questions.
Briefly paraphrasing can show you have been listening well and summarising at the end of a conversation can confirm you grasped the key points.
Sharing your point of view and experience after you have understood the other person is also helpful. It may help them feel less alone in their experience or problem and keep the dialogue going.
It’s clear that becoming better listeners would be useful for all of us, whether for our personal or work relationships. The Samaritans are encouraging people to pledge to become better listeners with some of the following pledges
- I pledge to listen without being distracted
- I pledge to listen without interrupting
- I pledge to check in with my loved ones more often and ask them how they really are