Ask anyone if he or she is good listener, and that person will invariably say yes.
However, research shows that most people overestimate their skills in this area.
How do you know if you’re a good listener? I assess listening skills when I interview candidates for employment by asking this question.
Ideal answers include, “I turn off my inner voice and focus on the person I’m listening to,” or, “I focus on that person’s words only.” Someone who does this probably has the traits of a good listener.
Many of us don’t do turn off our inner voices or focus on the person speaking, though. Instead, we exhibit the following behaviors that indicate we’re not paying attention:
1. You formulate your response to the speaker in your head. When you do this, you are no longer focused on what is being said, but how you’ll respond to it.
2. You tune the speaker out . Maybe you disagree with what is being said or what’s being said is boring, but this indicates that your mind is elsewhere.
3. You interrupt the speaker. Perhaps it’s because you think you understand what the person is trying to say—or you’ve heard it before—but stopping the speaker before he or she is finished is a sign of a bad listener. Lousy listeners also finish other people’s sentences for them.
4. You take over the conversation. Let’s say someone is talking about a book he or she is reading, and you jump in and talk about the book you’re reading. If you’re off and running, leaving the other person left with an untold story, you could stand to improve.
5. Your device comes between you and the speaker. It’s tempting to check your phone if a conversation or meeting becomes uninteresting, but nothing says, “I’m tuning you out” more than picking up your phone while someone is talking to you.
The good news is that becoming a better listener is not a matter of learning new information. Instead, work on paying attention, actively listening and turning off the voice in your head.
What do you think, Ragan readers? How do you improve your listening skills?
A regular contributor to Ragan.com and PR Daily, Laura Hale Brockway is medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com.