So you don’t know how to listen? That’s fine. Most people like to think of themselves as good listeners. In reality, most are not. At least you’re being honest!
Listening is an easy concept to understand, yet it’s very difficult to do. Putting it into practice requires attention, focus, and a hell of a lot of energy.
You’re probably thinking ‘Not me. I’m a GREAT listener. One of the best.’ Ok, maybe not that exact thought process. You get the idea. So, how can you check?
How can you tell if you’re a good listener? Start by assessing if you don’t know how to listen. Here are 5 signs:
1- You’re thinking about something else
You’re nodding, you’re smiling, you might even throw in a “yeah, totally”, but you’re thinking about something else. Probably contemplating whether to have burritos or pizza for dinner (just me?). The good news: either dinner option is fantastic. The bad news: you’re not listening.
2 – You interrupt
Ever catch yourself talking over someone or cutting them off before they’ve finished speaking? Maybe you’re excited to make a comment or share some information; or perhaps you think what you have to say is more important. Either way, interruptions get in the way of listening, which gets in the way of understanding.
3 – It’s all about you
Let’s say you don’t interrupt someone (congrats – reward yourself with a burrito). Pay attention to your response. Does it frequently contain “I” or “me” in it? If so, you’re on track to make it about you. Do that consistently, and your self-orientation can get in the way of connecting with others and creating the space to listen. It’s okay to talk about yourself sometimes — try to avoid leading with it and see where the conversation goes.
4- You hijack the conversation
Wayne starts to tell you about his trip to Spain, and you jump in with stories about your experience studying abroad in Spain and how good the jamon is. Before you know it, you’re talking about that night you went clubbing in Madrid and lost your left shoe. But Wayne wanted to talk about the beautiful beaches of Malaga before you hijacked the conversation. A fun conversation for you, but how’s Wayne feeling? Entertained? Perhaps. Listened to? Nope.
5 – You don’t learn anything
What do you learn when you’re talking? Nothing. If you walk away from a meeting or conversation and realize you didn’t learn anything new, it’s a sign that you might be talking too much. Talk less. Listen more. Learn more.
After reading this list, can you honestly say that you’re a perfect listener? Probably not. But that’s ok, nobody is. *It just means you need to practice. And it’s never too late to do that. Also never too late to eat a burrito. Speaking of which…
* Check out our Start Here: Listen workshop. It’s free, it’s only 45 minutes, and it’s an opportunity to get even better at listening—and connecting—with others.