Being a good listener is hard. We all take in thousands of messages a day and it can be overwhelming, being on the receiving end of all that input.
A good research moderator must, by definition, be an active listener. I’ve been working on it for twelve years and have improved a great deal over time but it may never be second-nature. Maybe it’s because I’m an extrovert. Or because Communication is my first strength, according tor Clifton StrengthFinder. Just as likely is that I simply like to talk. My favorite way to process different questions or explore a topic is out loud. This can be a good thing in a brainstorming session or during long runs in marathon training but not when you want to understand and consider how someone else thinks, feels and communicates.
If you’re like me and it’s not something that comes naturally, becoming a better listener takes conscious practice. The key is to keep building your skills, not look for huge leaps all at once. So take a look at the tips below and see which one speaks to you, then try it this week.
Tips for better listening:
- Stop what you’re doing and give your attention to the other person. It sounds basic but not every moment is meant to be maximized with multitasking. If you’re trying to do other things, all the while saying, “Go ahead, I’m listening,” you’re probably not.
- Be aware of your body language. If you’re relaxed, sitting back to take in the information, you’re less likely to interrupt or finish other people’s sentences.
- At first, consciously make an effort to speak less than the other person (when it makes sense).
- Identify one bad habit and ask people to help you be more aware of it. My business partner Brenda is a much better listener than I am and she used to fine me a quarter every time I randomly switched topics in a conversation. It drove me crazy but really helped break that habit.
- In our research studies, it usually takes some time to get women to reveal what’s really on their minds and that access is rarely given with the first question. So, we have to ask, ask, ask, listen, listen, listen to get the real reason or true behavior, which often comes out late in the conversation. So if we have stopped listening, or only heard a little and assumed the rest, we miss the real, good stuff.