I wish there was a way to assess our listening skills, just like we are assessed on reading, writing and speaking. We do hear shouts of ‘listen carefully’ in our school days but how to listen is hardly taught. Most of us are selective listeners. We are not always attentive to what is being said for a variety of reasons.
How can we train ourselves to be a good listener?
First of all, appreciate that listening is one of the inter-personal skills. By being attentive and listening, we actually demonstrate that we respect others and extend courtesy to others. Being patient is also a part of it. If we are impatient, we don’t allow the other person to speak properly, and then there is hardly a scope for listening. Our inter-personal skills play a big role in making us a good or bad listener.
Second, let’s develop the habit of listening to people whom we don’t necessary like. We can look around in our circle and make a sincere attempt to communicate with those who are not amongst our favorites. One way to do this is to identify a common interest and discuss that with them.
Third, we should make an attempt to diversify our interest and start talking to those who know more than us on a particular subject. They would talk happily. And we will benefit from their knowledge besides practicing our listening skills.
Finally, speak less. Very often we tend to speak too much ourselves, leaving little room for others to express themselves. A well known Greek philosopher Diogenes has said, “We have two ears and only one tongue in order that we may hear more speak less.”
Like in any training, small steps help. We may begin by listening carefully the names of people when they introduce themselves to us or are introduced by someone. On several occasions I have faced embarrassment by not paying adequate attention to their names when people are introduced. Another useful step would be to identify one person whom we don’t enjoying talking too. Make a conscious effort to listen and understand. Incidentally, I am also working on these two steps myself and look forward to listening to your experiences.