The art of listening: become the perfect conversation partner

Listening sounds like a simple concept, and it is something we do frequently every day. But there are different ways of listening, and some people are better at them than others. Fortunately, listening well to people is something you can learn quite easily. If you are willing to put in some time and effort, you can make rapid progress. While listening to people, we often think about what we want to say next, how we are going to respond, and what direction we want to take the conversation. Because you are so busy with what you want to achieve with the conversation, you don’t actually listen very carefully to what your conversation partner wants to say. Learning to listen well not only enriches your own life, but can also have a great impact on the people around you, and you will certainly receive compliments about what a great conversationalist and good listener you are (or have become).

Good listening requires attention and focus

Don’t worry if you’re not a good listener yet, it’s a skill you can teach yourself. It’s not that difficult, but it does take some practice and some time. And the people around you will definitely notice the difference and your relationships with your partner, children, friends, colleagues and others will change for the better.

A lot happens in our brains when we talk to other people. We hear what the other person says, but at the same time we respond to what is said, we judge, interpret the information, and we prepare ourselves for what we want to answer next. Consciously or unconsciously, we try to steer the conversation in a direction we want to go. This may be because you would like to tell something, give advice, or because you would like to extract certain information from your conversation partner. But to really listen well we must try to let go of all this and listen without judgment or an agenda.

Focus on your conversation partner and stay in the moment

Try to focus your attention on the other person by just listening. When your thoughts wander or you catch yourself thinking about what you want to say instead of really listening, try to bring your attention back to your conversation partner. Just really listen to the words he or she uses, focus on the intonation, on the body language. It’s okay if you don’t succeed in one go and you wander off every now and then, what is important is that you correct yourself as soon as you notice that you are no longer paying full attention to the other person. The more you do this, the easier it will become, and the less often you will stray.

Don’t be distracted by your surroundings. Put your phone away or put it on silent. Checking your phone is the quickest way to end a conversation, it makes you seem incredibly indifferent and uninterested. Looking at the clock or your watch are also bad habits if you want to keep a conversation going. If you get distracted by things happening around you, notice it and bring yourself back to the conversation. Again, it’s not a big deal if this happens, as long as you correct yourself. If you consciously keep yourself involved in the conversation, you will become better and better at this, and you will catch yourself less and less often that you are not really listening.

Try to listen without judging

We often immediately form an opinion or judgment about what is said, we constantly react to the words, actions and emotions of others (even if this is not immediately noticeable to your conversation partner). Subconsciously you are trying to place everything the other person says and/or does into your framework and your worldview. Now try to listen neutrally and not make an immediate judgment (whether positive or negative). Just let the information come in first.

In addition to immediately judging what the other person says, we also often have the tendency to read and fill in all kinds of things. But our interpretation of how things are meant is often based on our own experiences, expectations , fears and worldviews. We often take things very personally even though they were not intended that way. So try to filter out your own feelings while you listen, try not to interpret what the other person means, because then you are very preoccupied with your own feelings instead of really listening. If you cannot place things or have interpreted them in a certain way, ask your conversation partner what exactly was meant. This way there are no misunderstandings, you keep communication open and clear, and it makes the other person really feel heard.

Let your conversation partner direct the conversation

Often we have our own agenda when we talk to or listen to someone. We want to steer the conversation in a certain direction. This may be because we want to share something, or because we want to know something from the other person, so we steer the conversation in that direction, either by asking leading questions or making pointed comments.

If you want to be a good listener, it is important to let the other person lead the conversation, so that the other person can really say what he or she wants to say. This makes people really feel heard. Of course you can respond to what the other person says and ask questions, but try to keep the questions very open and not use them to direct the conversation.

Practice a lot

The art of listening is not something you read about once and then apply flawlessly. It takes a lot of practice, you have to try to be constantly aware of what you are doing, what distracts you, how you judge and interpret, and how you direct the conversation. Start by just trying to notice what exactly is going on in your head when you listen to someone. Realizing what is going through your mind while listening is the first step towards correcting and adjusting yourself. This may take a lot of energy at first, but you will notice that it becomes easier and easier for you until it is almost automatic.

It may take some time before you really master the art of listening, but you will soon see improvements and your conversation partners will also quickly notice differences. Really listening to what people say, what they want, and just giving them the feeling of being really heard, is not only nice for your conversation partners, but will certainly enrich your own life. It can really be worth it to give someone this attention and it can be very inspiring for them, but also for yourself to be an attentive listener!

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