Hello to you on Thursday, my friends! So far this week, we’ve covered my weekend and weekly workouts, some Les Mills fitness giveaway goodness and helpful nutrition tips and eats, so let’s do something different today. Not fitness. Not food. But life.
This is something that I think we all need a little help with …
Listening. Not hearing. Not texting. Not talking. But listening.
How often do you really listen to someone? A time when you aren’t playing on your phone or fiddling with something, you aren’t forming your own judgments or thoughts in your head, but you’re just listening. I bet it’s not as often as you’d like.
This post is inspired by a few things. More than a year ago, I attended a Les Mills Advanced Instructor Module, and we played a little game with partners, which helped us to become better listeners to the members who attend our classes. Those tips stuck with me for a few months, but then slowly fell by the way-side. And the other day I noticed that I kept glancing at my phone while in a conversation with someone, so I mentally took note not to do it again. How rude of me. It’s clear it was time for a refresher on this important subject.
In order to be a better friend, employee, group fitness instructor, personal trainer, blogger, wife, daughter and person, I know I always need to be an active and engaged listener in all scenarios. So this one’s for me, and for you too, just in case you need the reminder …
How to be a better listener every day
- Physical signs. Turn your entire body to face the person you are talking to so that you’ve created a physical sign of attention. Your shoulders, hips and face should be positioned directly at the subject. This tip alone will help with engagement levels, because you’ll be less inclined to continue doing what you’re doing. It goes without saying, this means you need to put your phone down and away — either in your pocket or bag or face down on a table or desk in front of you.
- Practice welcoming non-verbal communication. Make sure your arms are open and not folded across your chest. Also, pull your shoulders back and stand or sit up straight, showing that you’re being attentive to the speaker. Look excited, not slumped-over and bored.
- Open your eyes and close your mouth. Rather than waiting to give a response with an open mouth, keep your mouth closed. Not only will this show that you’re in the listening zone, but it will require you to wait for a pause in the conversation before speaking.
- Zone out all those extra thoughts. Try not to make mental check-lists of things you need to do or make your game-plan for after the conversation is over. Just listen and clear your mind. You have to give your full mental attention to the words the other person is saying or you could miss something.
- Create imagery of the speaker’s words. Consider drawing or picturing exactly what the person is saying in your head, so you can get a better understanding of his/her thoughts. This will help you to better sympathize, empathize and absorb the content, so when the time is right, you can respond thoughtfully.
- Don’t ever interrupt. It’s very rude to cut someone off and interject your thoughts if that person hasn’t finished speaking. (And OH MAN, have I had to work at this one!) While there are times with your close acquaintances that you may need to end a long story you’re stuck hearing for a valid reason, it’s usually best to let someone finish. After he/she is done, you can give your response and kindly thank that person for speaking to you. A great way to end a conversation when you’re crunched for time is to say that you’re very interested in continuing the discussion and would love to pick it back up at a specific time later. Make that date and stick to it.
- Ask questions to help your understanding. Rather than just giving thoughts, it’s okay to ask questions to the speaker to really be able to see what they are trying to get at. There’s no such thing as a dumb question, so if you need assistance in getting the point, ask for it. But don’t spend too much time coming up with the questions in your head so that you forget to listen.
- Empathize, be kind and be open. You’re bound to disagree, dislike and be shocked by some of the things that people in your life will say, in both your personal and professional conversations. That’s okay. No need to knock down the points of others that you don’t totally agree with at all times. Rather, try to understand what that person is saying and feeling and respond without harsh judgment. I’m sure that’s how you would like to be treated too.
- Never underestimate the power of eye contact and a smile. While you don’t have to stare creepily into someone’s eyes, it’s best to look at them while speaking and look at them while listening. You can look away at times for a quick breath, but come back to stay engaged. And if the conversation calls for it, keep a relaxed smile on your face, with your mouth closed, showing that you have positivity and enjoyment for the things being discussed. Of course, if the conversation is about something sad or negative, the same goes for a mild closed-mouth pursing of the lips. Your choice, but don’t be scared to show emotion on your face to match the tone of the conversation.
- Use names and insight. When you respond to someone, make sure to use his/her name and incorporate some of the facts that you know about that person in conversation, so he/she feels like you care about them. You’ll pick up those facts while listening, so use them right then and there.
- Listen rather than hear. All of these points combined will help you to actually listen and comprehend the things that you’re getting from a conversation. Try not to mistake “hearing” for “listening,” and you’ll be golden.
There you have it. With these tips, you’ll be a star listener in no time and maybe even teach those around you how to listen better in the process.
And believe me, good listeners make the best friends and employees, so if you up your game in this department, you could see many positive benefits to come.
(In case you missed it, last week I made up a fun “20-question get to know me better survey” for fellow bloggers to partake in, which is also a great tool for starting up good conversations and practicing your new listening skills.)
If you haven’t already, be sure to enter to win a chance to attend an awesome Les Mills Super Quarterly event at a stop on the tour in a city near you this year. The contest closes on Monday night, so act quickly.
Have a great day, people! See you back here tomorrow for “Friday Favorites“!
Questions of the day
Do you have any tips or tricks for being a better listener?
When is the last time you had a good phone conversation and who was it with?
How’s your week going so far?