Some people may not think about it much but listening is an important skill not just in conversations but in the real world which is why it’s essential that people in the field of business master this skill in order for the business to run as efficiently as it can. If you want to improve your listening skills one important thing you must learn is that there’s a difference between hearing somebody and listening to someone. Hearing somebody takes no effort on your part because your ears pretty much do the job for you but to listen to what someone is saying requires not just your ability to hear them but to concentrate on what they’re saying so that you can comprehend the point that’s coming across to you. This is essential for business leaders to have because often they would have to engage with many different types of people like their staff, customers or clients and upper management depending on the nature of their business. Even though given their position they talk frequently to others they must also be able to listen to what others have to say too because that’s the only way they can absorb information that helps them get an assessment of where the company is or wants to be in terms of performance or other important areas. Here are six ways you can improve your listening skills and even if you’re not a manager or work in business listening is a universal skill that everyone must have or improve.

Show that you’re engaged
      Sometimes in a conversation you can physically see when someone is not as engaged to simply by observing their body language. The strongest indication is indirect eye contact which means that you’re paying your attention somewhere else. Another clue is the utterance of words such as “yeah” or “uh-huh” which is not always a clear sign that you’re not paying attention because someone who is actively paying attention could also say those words to but if you want to show that you’re involved maintaining eye contact, nodding your head in agreement and asking questions in between not only shows that you’re listening but it also encourages the speaker to continue the conversation.

Distance yourself from distractions
      Distractions are an easy way to lose focus in a conversation. Phones and computer screens are the most common ones and it’s obvious that when you’re talking with someone that you should not have those devices nearby (even in phone conversations because people can still hear the keys) some people do it anyways and it kind of insults the speaker to a degree and you’re better off not having the conversation in the first place. The answer to this problem is not hard it only requires you to be as far away from your distractions as possible which means putting your phone away and turning your attention away from your computer to the person you’re talking to.

Don’t pretend that you’re paying attention
      If you know that you’re not listening in a conversation don’t pretend that you are unless you know you can get away with it. It could be hard to admit sometimes but you would have to say let the speaker know that there were some parts to the conversation that you did not follow however if you want to spare feelings the best way you can admit that you were not paying attention is by asking the speaker to say that one part again saying “can you repeat that” because that way it would seem that the message was not made clear because of enunciation issues or misunderstandings as oppose to flat out saying you were not paying attention.

Put yourself in their agenda
      An interesting approach to improving your listening skills is by putting your own interest or desires aside and put yourself in the speaker’s agenda. Wilfred Bion, a psychoanalyst from the 1900’s once said that purest form of listening was listening without desire or your own interest. What is meant by this statement is that in order to be a better listener you should remove the desire to try and fit what ever it is the speaker is saying into your own desires or interest. When you’re listening to someone you can sometimes put what they have to say into you own agenda like through memory your fitting it into an old agenda and through desire it is put into a new one listening out of your own self interest only. When you listen out of the self interest of the speaker you can ask questions that helps them formulate their thoughts and ideas which they can use to broaden your perspective. This way both people engaged get a mutual benefit from talking with each other.

Practice “active listening”
      Understanding the intention of the person speaking would clear a lot of misunderstandings in not only the work place but in life. Often we could get caught up in conversations but lose focus on what the person is actually saying not because we were not paying attention but because we do not pay enough attention to the point that we miss the point being made. You could be listening to what someone is trying to say but in your head what they actually said can be interpreted into something else creating a misunderstanding and in the workplace misunderstandings can cause confusion , can negatively impact the performance of an organization and could cause frustrations. At that point relationships can be damaged. By simply clarifying what you and the person you’re speaking with have to say you could avoid the drama and see your performance improve overtime.

Paraphrase and repeat what you hear
      Listening to someone may be easy but sometimes when we try to remember what they say we forget when you try to restate it in your own words. If you come across this problem often the trick you can try to fix this is by simply rephrasing everything the person talking to you have said after they’ve finished saying what it is. This way you start to grasp the actual meaning of what they’re saying and you completely understand the main points of their message to you. Saying things like ” I heard you say ……is that correct?’ further clarifies what the person has to say so that you can understand each other more clearly.

      Developing your listening skills is not difficult but if you have a short attention span it can take awhile to improve. If you’d like there are many other techniques and people you can turn to improve your listening skills but just remember that practice makes perfect. The more time you spend improving one of the oldest communication skills in human history the more you can use it to your benefit and apply it at work or in your personal life. For many husbands out there this could not be more important.