Listening is a crucial part of persuasion, influence, and good leadership in general. It’s also a basic building block of healthy personal relationships. But there are different levels of listening — from simply hearing words being said all the way to deep listening. So what’s the difference in listening and deep listening?
Some refer to deep listening as active listening because you are actively acquiring information and using that information to truly understand the speaker’s situation. As a listener, you are focused and undistracted — “actively” choosing to be present in that moment for the conversation at hand. Most likely you are also giving clear signals to the speaker that their message is being absorbed.
When a person is on the other end of the spectrum, not engaging in deep listening, they are usually just waiting for their turn to talk. The speaker is less likely to feel heard, and the interaction is less likely to be meaningful.
Some people seem to be naturally inclined to be better listeners, but the good news is that listening is a skill that can be learned, honed, practiced, and improved.
Here are 8 tips to enact a deeper listening so that you can build stronger relationships, improve your influence and persuasion, and better serve your clients and customers.
- Focus on being present in the moment. It’s hard to give someone else your full attention when you are running through your to-do list in your mind or glancing at your phone every two minutes. And the speaker will notice your inattention, too. So block out all distractions and stay in the present.
- Make eye contact. It will give the message to the speaker that you are listening, making them feel important and valued, and the physical act of eye contact will also help you to continue to be distraction-free and focused.
- Be aware of body language. The speaker’s and your own. If you are attempting to gain an understanding of their message, note what they are doing with their arms and hands. How are they sitting or standing? Are they in a confident stance or a self-conscious one? And then remember that your body language speaks as well. Are you facing the listener, actively nodding your head to indicate you are with them? Or are you crossing your arms, closed off to them, with a disdainful look on your face? These little details make a lot of difference.
- Listen without judgment. Be compassionate and open-minded to the speaker’s words. Listen for the meaning they are trying to convey, and hold off on making unnecessary judgments. Put yourself in their shoes as you listen.
- Ask questions to clarify meaning. When you ask the speaker questions to understand their meaning more deeply, both of you benefit. You get a clearer picture of the message, and they get confirmation that they are heard.
- Reflect back to them what they’ve said. To further clarify their message, repeat it back to them in your own words. Knowing that you will do so gives you further reason to listen in closely, and they can also ascertain whether or not they’ve conveyed the right message.
- Listen for feelings, not just words. What emotions are they sharing as they speak? What is their tone, pace, and inflection? Because as you know, often a person’s words say one thing while the way they say them says another thing.
- Understand what they need from you. It is often said that women want to be heard, while men want fixes and solutions. While that is a broad stereotype, it speaks to the idea that sometimes a speaker is looking for feedback; sometimes they want an answer to a problem; and sometimes they just want to vent. Clarify what the speaker wants from you and what the purpose is of the conversation. You may even want to ask directly what they are looking for so that you can respond accordingly.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” –Dale Carnegie