Monthly Archives: June 2018

5 Ways To Improve Your Listening Skills

Unless you are a naturally world-class listener, you’d probably have had experiences where people caught your mind wandering off while you were supposed to be in an engaged conversation.

It happens.

You might make a joke out of it or dismiss it as nothing.

But imagine how you would feel if you were sharing some deep emotional stuff or critical business information and the people who were supposed to be attentive were not listening.

We are all naturally inclined to “want to be heard” whenever we are talking. The tough part is that the mind tends to drift off whenever someone talks for more than 14 seconds.

Being a good listener can really put you on top of someone’s list of people he likes. And depending on what type of relationship you have with that person, it could mean a lot of good things going your way when you have been tagged as a good listener.

The irony is that you don’t really have to be a good listener in order to reap the rewards of being one. You can also pretend to be one and get the same results.

Here are some tips you can use to train yourself into a better listener or at least be perceived as one.

1) Make a commitment

Granted. Important discussions and casual conversations that require you to really listen does not happen all the time. But when a time comes where you know that you have to get in gear, make a mental commitment to listen.

While we are incapable of giving interactions total focus all the time, we can DECIDE which conversations to activate the attention switch.

Don’t get distracted by anything around you and attempt to give 100% focus.

Imagine if your smartphone suffered a hardware problem and you decided to get the spare part and replace it yourself. You would undoubtedly give your phone surgery 100% attention and focus while doing the task.

If you are able to do that, you can do the same with listening.

2) Look the part

There are some instinctive reactions people make when truly listening. You can copy these behavior to at least make it appear like you are listening.

The talking party would absolutely love it 😀

  • Nod
  • Frown
  • Smile
  • Laugh
  • Raise eyebrows
  • Use affirmations like “Yes”, “Alright”, “Go on”, etc

3) Offer feedback

Giving feedback as a response is one of the most effective techniques to ensure the speaker feels listened to.

How else would you be able to do that unless you were listening?

3 types of feedback are known to be able to achieve this effect.

  1. Practice empathy
  2. Paraphrasing
  3. Repeat the last sentence as a question

Let’s use this sentence as one said by the speaker, and use examples of all 3 ways to respond.

“It’s 9pm and I can’t believe that I’m still in the office! This job is shit!”

  • Empathy: Wow I would be livid if I was still working at 9pm.
  • Paraphrasing: Still in the office at this time. That’s a demanding job.
  • Repeat: 9pm and you are still in the office?

Giving feedback don’t just enable a speaker to feel listened to, it also encourages him or her to talk more and elaborate on the topic. This why listening skills is a key trait of great negotiators.

4) Never talk over the speaker

Interrupting and talker over someone else can be a useful tactic in school debates and fierce negotiations. But it is never a good thing to do when you want to the other party to find you as a good listener.

I understand that sometimes, a comeback has to be inserted into a conversation in order to achieve the best desired effect. So you need to make a judgment call on this one.

If in doubt, let the speaker finish before your comeback or rebuttal.

Sometimes a speaker is building a story towards a climax. And with your interruption, he is unable to tell a story the way he wanted to. This can leave him feeling disappointed that what he spent hours rehearsing fail to come to fruition.

And you never know.

Maybe if you had allowed him to finish, you would not have made a comment that made you look stupid.

5) Practice

Becoming a good listener can take time. You need time and practice to hone your listening skills.

So don’t put the burden of instant success on your shoulders. That’s just brewing stress and anxiety.

Practice listening with the people around you.

  • Close friends
  • Family members
  • Colleagues
  • etc

Other than these sources, try listening when watching TV or when listening to the radio.

Listening is one of the most underrated soft skills.

For example, in many critical negotiations, it is seldom about how well you articulate. But more about how well you are listening to what the other party is ACTUALLY saying.

This is such a essential and yet ignored skill, that you might be able to get a competitive edge over a lot of people when you learn how to harness it.

So do make mastering it a goal in both life and career.

4 Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is essentially the practice of focusing on your immediate surroundings.

It is associated with things like meditation, yoga, controlled breathing, etc.

When you practice mindfulness, you clear your mind and focus only on what is around you.

There are actually a lot of benefits associated with mindfulness.

In this article, you are going to be introduced to just 4 of the many benefits associated with mindfulness.

1) An improved ability to focus

One of the main benefits of mindfulness is how it teaches you to focus on what is in front of you.

A lot of people struggle with focusing on the task at hand, their minds wander.

This is understandable; after all, people in modern society tend to be overloaded with worries and things that they need to do.

However, being unable to focus can lead to problems in both your work and home life.

Mindfulness trains people to focus their minds on things like their surroundings, their own body, etc.

2) Greater control over their emotions

A major component of mindfulness is learning how to channel your emotions and feelings. Many people suffer from an inability to control their emotions.

They become frazzled easily and make bad decisions.

I am sure that if you think about your own family, you can probably identify several people who suffer from an inability to control their emotions.

Mindfulness requires people to channel their emotions.

Because of this, during highly stressful or otherwise emotional times, mindful people are able to take a few minutes, calm themselves down, and think rationally.

3) Reduced stress levels

One of the most useful benefits of practicing mindfulness is how it can alleviate stress.

Everyone has to deal with some level of stress, but for many, stress can be crippling.

Practicing mindfulness can’t make the source of your stress go away, but it can help you cope with it more effectively than other stress relief strategies.

You clear your mind and focus on things that don’t cause stress.

Since your mind isn’t clouded by stress, it gives you time to think about solutions to whatever it is that is causing the stress in the first place.

4) Better memory

Practicing mindfulness is able to improve your memory for two reasons. Firstly, stress (which mindfulness alleviates) can make your memory worse.

So, by getting rid of stress, mindfulness enables you to be able to focus and remember things better.

Secondly, mindfulness is like a workout for your brain. Your brain is like a muscle, by working out your brain, it gets stronger.

How to Make Time for Mindfulness

Mindfulness can help many different aspects of your life, and if you understand the benefits, it’s time to start thinking about how to fit it into your busy routine.

At first, you may feel like you’re already too busy and you can’t possibly find time to start doing something new.

However, finding time to be more mindful doesn’t have to be difficult, and here are some of the easiest ways you can incorporate it into your day.

1) Spend less time online

Think about the time that you spend online – like most of us it’s probably a fair bit of your day.

When you’re in bed at night, are you on your phone or playing a game?

When you finish work, are you watching movies or checking Facebook for the latest updates?

Before you log on, force yourself to take just 5-10 minutes to spend time being mindful.

This could be writing down some thoughts from the day, sitting down to meditate or practising a couple of new yoga moves.

2) Be mindful while you commute

If you commute to work every day, this is a great opportunity to spend your time doing something useful.

Many commuters spend around an hour or more per day travelling, whether it’s on the train, bus or in your car.

During this time, you can allow yourself at least a few minutes to practise mindfulness.

Think about how you feel in the moment, the people around you and what you think and feel about different things.

3) Wake up 5 minutes earlier

If you want to make sure you get something done, the best time to do it is in the morning.

Rather than setting your alarm for 7am, wake up at 6:55am and spend the first five minutes of your day meditating or being mindful.

Not only will this get your day off to a great start, but you’ll feel positive about the fact you’ve managed to do something worthwhile even before you’ve had breakfast!

4) Establish a routine

Rather than trying to find a new place and a new way to be mindful every day, keep the same routine.

If you decide to practise mindfulness when at the gym, try to do this on a regular basis.

If you want to wake up earlier to do it, establish a new earlier morning routine in order to accommodate this.