Listening is underrated. It is too often overlooked and not worked on like many other skills. How many times have you heard, or even said, "you have two ears and one mouth for a reason", "listen more, speak less", "be a good listener, your ears will never get you in trouble",
"everybody lies but it doesn't matter because nobody listens"? There are a lot of thoughts on the subject because it's something we know we don't do so well. Studies generally show that 1/2 of what is heard is not remembered. Lovely.
We can become better listeners. There are plenty of approaches and methods that can help us to become active listeners. Understand your own communication style, that of the audience, focus, ask clarifying questions, summarize what you hear and repeat it back, supportive body language, etc. These are all things that we can do to improve our own individual listening skills. That is within our control.
There is another way to improve listening skills. The listening skills of others. You can have a direct impact on the quality of their listening by what you say and of course, how you say it. But first, understand one thing:
Your favorite topic is you.
Whether it's kids, interests, opinions, or recent experiences, we love talking about ourselves. It makes sense, it is the one topic we know better than any other and better than anyone else. Some people are a little better at controlling their enthusiasm for themselves and some are shy about it but we all do love this topic.
In sales, networking, or social events a primary goal is to get the other person talking about themselves. It's a comfortable place for anyone to go and it makes them feel good, which helps them feel good about you. When they are comfortable and "warmed up", the guard is down and they are more likely to be engaged, not defensive, and that sets the stage for a better listener.
Now, when you've got someone primed and ready to listen... be careful not to spend too much time on your favorite subject! Listen for that too.
Road to listening improvement:
1- Practice active listening.
2- Be aware of their favorite subject and help them get there with good questions.
3- Be aware of YOUR favorite subject. Don't overdue it, people tune out, become bad listeners... and that's NOT what we're going for.