Today we find ourselves in a world where we digest information through images, short snippets of text and bolded words. Fed directly to us via a conveyor belt of a newsfeed, we have mastered the ability to take in as much information as possible with the least amount of effort. The thing is, our bodies are programmed to listen three times faster than anyone can speak, yet we still don’t listen properly. While our ears are taking in just enough for us to make a feeble response, our brains wander off while waiting for the speaker to finish. Lizzi Hart of the Graduate Recruitment Bureau discusses how becoming a better listener can lead to greater career prospects.
No matter who is speaking, a friend, a colleague or a stranger, it’s pretty insulting for them when you’re ‘listening’ whilst on your phone. Facebook can wait, there are human beings taking the time to speak to you. Acting engaged boosts both the confidence of the person you are listening to, and their respect for you. Yet if you’re too glued to the internet to pay attention for just a few moments, you belittle the person trying to engage with you. That doesn’t exactly give a good impression does it?
As well as putting down your phone, to convey your interest in what somebody is saying (even if it’s as dull as your Nan’s holiday photos) you need to adjust your body language. Sitting up straight, facing the person and some form of eye contact (don’t stare into their eyes, that’s too creepy) can do wonders on your relationship. With employers these days increasingly wanting those willing to listen, it’s integral that you practise showing interest and engagement.
You may not be drafted into the conversation initially, but if you’re within earshot and think of something to add, do it! Don’t be afraid to butt into casual conversations – it shows you are both a good listener and it makes you more approachable. This is especially true when you find yourself at a new job and want to make yourself known.
Especially in a work scenario, repeating back what has been uttered is a sure fire way to flaunt your listening capacities. Be it a drinks request or the details of a given task, you can prove how much you were paying attention by repeating their words – this is also an effective memory technique. If you don’t understand something, simply ask; you thereby demonstrate your thirst for more information. To be honest, most people like to explain and get their point across fully, so indulge them with an attentive gaze.
We’ve all got stories to tell, and while you’re not listening to someone, ways to connect your hilarious anecdotes to the current topic whiz through your mind. Or maybe you hear one keyword and find yourself so desperate to interrupt with your ‘better’ story that you forget to process what else the person is trying to convey. Now, try to think what it’s like to be the recipient of these dismissive interruptions. To remedy what many of us find hard wired into our brains, try your best to listen, don’t fidget or come across eager to speak and let the speaker finish their sentence comfortably. They will be appreciative and feel respected, instantly improving your relationship.
Everyone likes to feel their words have reached someone, but occasionally they’re not loud enough or their audience aren’t listening. Be the person who is. Even if it’s a terrible joke, an unfunny response, or something disinteresting, give them the time of day. If you’re the person who always listens and reacts appropriately, your likeability is bound to rocket – a great feat for your career.
Now that you understand the importance of being attentive and engaged, try it out and marvel at the dividends that you reap. You’ll become a better and more influential person because of it.
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