When talking to someone, do you often think only about the topic of the conversation, abstracting from extraneous thoughts? Probably not that often. But don’t feel bad-you’re not alone in that. Such a seemingly insignificant defect as inability to listen can be a serious obstacle to building both personal and business relationships.
Listening, Relationships, and the Psychology of Communication
According to numerous studies in the field of communication psychology, only about ten percent of the entire population knows how to listen effectively. In today’s world, people are so often distracted by news, music, social media, games, and more, not to mention work, that it is very difficult for them to concentrate on one topic of conversation with another person.
But if one concentrates poorly on the subject of the conversation, distracted by extraneous stimuli, the dialogue may go unconstructively and the relationship between the interlocutors will deteriorate. The feeling that a person is listening to his interlocutor is deceptive. This is found out after the listener is asked qualifying questions that he or she cannot answer.
The psychology of communication implies mutual active listening. When interlocutors not only let each other speak, but also listen to what they are told, reacting appropriately to remarks. Why do we need to be active and attentive listeners?
Effective listening is a skill that underlies all positive human relationships. It is an important stepping stone to success in many areas of life. According to numerous studies, the ability to listen and hear properly helps a person focus on understanding others, which in turn helps build trust, improve relationships with others, reduce conflict situations, and motivate and inspire others by successfully communicating their point of view.
Listening and hearing in communication
For good, productive communication, it is important to be able to both listen and hear. But it is important to distinguish between these two similar concepts. The first most often means simply perceiving sounds by hearing, and the second means understanding and correctly recognizing the meaning of what you hear. The latter concept is much more important and requires certain skills.
A good listener will be able to understand not only what is being said, but importantly, what his interlocutor is not saying. The psychology of communication interprets effective listening as the correct reading of verbal and nonverbal signs (facial expressions, gestures, posture, gait). At times, body language can clarify a lot of important information that has not been voiced in speech.
But to become a good conversationalist and an effective listener, it is not necessary at all to be a professional forensic scientist or psychologist. It is enough to master the basic rules and recommendations by constantly practicing, doing communication exercises and improving your skills. Below are some practical and simple recommendations for improving this skill:
Rules for effective listening
Know how to be quiet
Often after exchanging traditional greetings, one of the participants in the dialogue concentrates only on his message, forgetting to give the floor to his interlocutor. This interferes with building an effective conversation and negatively affects the relationship of the speakers to each other. Always remember the saying about two ears and one language. Try to listen to your interlocutor first, without interrupting, and only then speak.
Relax and focus.
It can be difficult to concentrate during a conversation if there is any internal tension, anxiety, or external stimulus. Before starting an important conversation, it is useful to breathe in and out deeply, relax the body and eyes, forget about other things for a while, and focus only on the topic of the conversation.
If you are very busy, and there is a possibility to postpone the dialogue for later, then do so, so that you don’t waste time on ineffective communication.
Show your interest
Good, productive relationships are built on sincerity and reciprocity. It’s important to get the person you’re talking to to trust you, to open up and not feel like a burden. Try to catch his emotional background and match it correctly. Maintain eye contact with the speaker and show genuine interest in his/her words. Competently use gestures of attentive listening, such as an approving smile, a nod, a slight tilt towards the interlocutor, etc.
Respect the speaker’s opinion
Many people have a habit of interpreting in their own way what they are told and of drawing conclusions based only on their opinion. Such people usually interrupt without listening to their interlocutor and without understanding the essence of the problem, and begin to advance their own point of view. In that way there is no understanding between people, and the conversation can remain unproductive.
To avoid this, it is important to listen to the person’s opinion to the end, without rushing to your own interpretation. Even if you don’t agree with the person, always emphasize your respect for their point of view and only then share your thoughts.
Any conversation can consist not only of phrases, but also of pauses, which not everyone knows how to endure. A short pause in statements does not mean the end of the conversation. After all, the interlocutor sometimes needs time to think about the next phrase.
At such moments, it is important not to interrupt the speaker and not to be distracted by other topics, forgetting about the essence of the conversation. During the pauses it is useful to reflect on the meaning of the conversation and the necessary clarifying questions.
Correct clarifying questions are an important indicator of active listening. They can be asked both in the course of statements (between pauses), and at the end of the conversation. It is important that your questions do not confuse the speaker with his main idea, but help him to reveal it better.
This will help the speaker to get your point across, and it will help you to understand the conversation more easily. Questions will make the conversation more interesting and give you a chance to get more useful information.
Do exercises together.
The best way to learn to listen is through constant practice. For example, there’s one simple exercise that’s easy to do for at least four minutes a day. You need to find yourself a helper and a stopwatch. Position yourselves across from each other, so that nothing distracts you.
For two minutes, one person should talk about something and the other person should listen attentively, nodding his or her head to express understanding. Then they change roles. At the end, questions can be used to check how accurately the listener has assimilated the information.
The idea is that the person learns to concentrate on listening, to understand and to control the desire to interrupt or to divert from the topic of conversation.
Be sure to try the above recommendations and exercises in practice, and you will notice that your ability to listen and understand your interlocutor will noticeably increase.
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