When you're preparing for an interview, it's easy to focus on all the things you want to say and how you want to say them. Practicing your answers as you go is a great way to prepare, but it isn't the whole picture. One of the most important skills you should practice is active listening.
When you are doing active listening, you are actually listening and processing what the other person is saying, rather than waiting for your turn to talk. It might sound silly, but most of the time, we aren't really listening to the things around us. According to the International Listening Association, we spend about 45 percent of our time listening, but mostly we are distracted and preoccupied about 75 percent of the time.
Even when we think we are listening, we really aren't. Think about your most recent conversations. Did you try to fill in the other person's pauses? Complete their sentences or just walk away?
Online exchanges aren't much different either. When we receive email or text messages, it's hard to slow down and actually read the whole thing. I know for me, at least, I have a bad habit of reading an entire message, then thinking about what I want to say. I end up thinking about it so much that my brain goes ahead and checks the box "reply to email" off my mental to-do list, even though I never actually typed up a reply. More often than not, however, I don't really read each message with fresh eyes, thinking about the person's intent. I just glance at it and send a text back.
If you want to be a better listener, here's a few tips:
- Take a deep breath and clear you mind if you find yourself getting distracted.
- Give your full attention to the speaker. Resist the urge to look at your watch, check your phone or whatever.
- Be aware of any assumptions you are making and try to let them go. Don't think you know what the person is going to say. Let them say it first.
- Use all of your senses. Pay attention to body language and facial expressions.
- Don't interrupt or talk until they are done.
- Don't look away or turn your back until the conversation is finished
Do you think that you are a good listener? Do you know someone who is a distracted listener? What do they do that makes you feel unheard?