Listening is an underrated skill. And make no mistake, it is a skill.
Dan Erwin looks at some researched-based facts about listening in:
“Listening experts believe that people in our culture are taught NOT to listen (Information is repeated, and people are not held responsible for effects of poor listening.)”
“As much as 50 percent of a given message is typically misunderstood without engaging in active listening.”
The first rule of listening is that you have to decide you are going to listen in an active. That doesn’t mean keeping one ear open while you compile your next sentence.
When listening, give the speaker your full attention. This can be hard in today’s world where there are so many interruptions.
It’s a good idea to put your phone down and to cancel all notifications.
If possible, take the person who needs to speak to a private quiet place. Good modern workplaces have plenty of suitable spots. If that’s not an option, find a café with good acoustics.
Give them space to talk. It’s best to let them go for a few moments, unless they seek a quick response. If the subject matter gets complicated, you might feel you want to take notes, although it is best to resist the temptation. Note taking interferes with good listening. Instead take notes after the session ends.
The other important listening strategy is to put people at ease, then get them to talk about them. Their lives, their feelings and their ideas. If you can do this, you’ll learn more.