Who’s your favorite speaker? It’s a trick question because for most people it’s themselves. People love to hear themselves talk and they love the idea that you like to hear them talk because it reinforces their belief. If you don’t listen, then they’ll often feel insulted or hurt. If you want to be a better conversationalist and better liked by those you come in contact with, try out these methods for being a better listener.
1. Look at Them
Don’t you hate it when you’re talking to someone and you get the feeling as if they would rather be somewhere else, anywhere else, than talking to you? Most often this feeling is initiated by the other person looking away. The intent may not be to offend. Some people are shy and self-conscious and look away out of nervousness. To be a better listener, look at the person talking. This makes them more comfortable and it engages you in the conversation. You don’t have to stare, that’s creepy. Just make it clear that your focus is on them and not something distracting across the room.
2. Attentive Listening
"Huh? What did you say?" OK, so you were looking at the person but your mind wasn’t on the conversation. You weren’t paying attention and now the other person knows it and they’re unhappy. Give the person you’re talking to your full attention. Don’t let distractions ruin the rapport you may be building. One old salesman’s trick to help become an attentive listener is to use body language such as leaning slightly toward the speaker. It’s cheesy, I know, but it works.
3. Ask Questions
Don’t sit there like a knot on a log, use natural breaks in the conversation to ask questions about what the other person was talking about. This shows them that you’re engaged in the conversation. Plus, it will flatter them that you’re interested enough in them speaking and what they’re saying that you want to hear more.
4. Stick to the Subject
You may be tempted to steer the conversation in a different direction for some reason. Overanxious salespeople are particularly bad about this when they want to move quickly to a close. However, you should wait until the person you’re talking to finishes the idea they’re trying to express. Switching the subject on them will frustrate them and make them think you aren’t listening to them.
5. No Interruptions
While it’s common sense not to do it, many people do this anyway. They interrupt the person speaking. They love hearing themselves talk so much that they can’t resist interjecting their 2 cents while the other person is talking. This often creates an awkward moment and can create the impression that you’re not listening to them.
6. It’s Not About You, It’s About Them
Often people in a conversation will blow it by placing the focus on themselves rather than keeping it on the person they’re supposed to be listening to. One common way this happens is when there is a little one-up-mans-ship. For example, someone might be telling you a story about hiking in the mountains and you say, "Oh, when I climbed Mount Shasta I had to carry…". As you can see, you’ve stolen the conversation and become the talker, not the listener.
How good a listener are you? Do you have any additional tips on being a good listener? Post a comment to talk more about this subject.