Most people think they’re good at listening. No one sets out to be a bad listener. However, it’s a sad fact that good listeners are rare in our society and when you come across one, it’s like a breath of fresh air and really makes a that person a joy to communicate with.
How can you tell if you’re a good listener? Are you listening or just waiting to speak? (Incidentally, that’s the title of my new book.) Let’s look at how you can tell if you are a good listener or not…
1. You’re present
2. You’re attentive
As well as being present, you show good attentiveness by maintaining good eye contact and watch for visual cues from your conversation partner. You also make occasional small verbal gestures of agreement such as ‘uh huh’, ‘yes’, ‘mmmm’.
Note that these are not necessarily agreement with what the person is saying, but agreement and encouragement in them speaking.
We’ve all heard that the vast majority of communication comes from body language, rather than what’s actually being said and good listeners are supremely aware of this and act accordingly.
3. You’re patient
Listening is a discipline. Sometimes the person speaking to you will ramble, not be 100% clear or will quite simply bore you. A good listener moves past all this and draws the person out.
The funny thing is, when we know we are being attentively, carefully listened to, we relax, feel ‘safe’ and are able to open up in a more eloquent and interesting way. This is one of the reasons why a good listener, by saying nothing, can really bring about great conversation and make the other person more interesting and also more interested in you; a win-win.
4. You’re open minded
If you approach listening to someone with your own preconceptions and self-righteousness in your head, you are not a good listener. Great listeners are able to at least entertain another point of view (i.e. without prejudgement) and hold loosely in their minds their own perspective on the conversation topic.
5. You’re Inquisitive
The best listeners ask questions and draw out more from the points the other person speaks about.
It doesn’t have to be super-clever topic related questions; a simple ‘tell me more’ or ‘what is important about that’ for example are fantastic signals of being interested and a good listener.
6. You’re not defensive
If the other person says something that rattles you or pushes your buttons, you are able to maintain open channels of communication and still listen to what they are saying.
7. Your body language is positive
Good eye contact, an open body stance, facing towards your conversation partner and nodding and smiling intermittently all show that you’re all ears and listening attentively.
8. You’re empathic
9. You feedback key points
Being able to accurately relay back to a person in your own words what they’ve said and their key points makes a person feel very heard and understood.
10. You’re authentic
Above all, you are authentic and genuine in your desire to hear what the other person has to say. It is easy to go through the motions of many of the above points but if you do this, the other person will intuitively pick up on this and the conversation will not be as rich or satisfying for either person.
You may need to practice some of the skills and attributes outlined above and that’s fine. When you get to that sweet spot of being a great listener by displaying all 9 facets of a good listener above, not only will people find you a joy to speak to but also your influence and persuasion will go up massively.
To find out how you can become a top-level listener, my new e-book will soon be available. ‘Are You Listening or Just Waiting to Speak? The Secret that will Propel Your Business and Relationships’.