In today’s digitally distracting times, effective listening is as rare a trait as being worthy enough to hold Thor’s hammer, or being able to listen to “Call Me Maybe” on an infinite loop.
So if you, by some strange, modern-day magic, are an effective listener, congratulations are in order: you’re a rarity.
We devote 55% of a given day listening — that’s a tad more than half of a 24-hour span, but hear this: most of us are only able to retain and understand about 17 to 25% of what we listen to.
The art and science of effective listening is a superpower that only a few people have mastered. Here are 5 signs that can help you tell if you’re one of the special ones who have the gift:
- You actually want to listen
Your perspective on listening is peachy: your internal dialogue is always “hooray, I get to hear someone speak his or her mind!” You have an insatiable hunger to hear others out. An effective listener is interested in what others have to say. You know that there’s bound to be something new to learn after the experience.
You sincerely take every opportunity to listen to someone as a chance to gain new knowledge, broaden your views, and challenge your own ideas. If this sounds very much like you, please accept a heartfelt virtual high-five.
- You pay attention
The only thing that should wander when you’re engaged in a conversation is:
absolutely nothing, zilch, nada.
If you’re an effective listener, your focus is on the speaker, and not on wondering if lasagna is on the cafeteria’s lunch menu today. You don’t daydream. You find it almost sacrilegious to go on Facebook while talking to someone.
You use your powers of focus and concentration to take in the content of the message and not on trivial matters. You don’t focus on mistakes — you don’t mentally fixate on the speaker’s grammatical lapses.
If you’re man enough to take on heard information as something worth valuing and understanding with the best of your abilities, you’re A+ in our books.
- You don’t interrupt
You’re a very respectful person who doesn’t try to finish the speaker’s sentence. You know that this doesn’t make you sound smart or superior, but rather, nothing short of annoying. And rude.
You know that the Golden Rule, when tweaked a bit, applies to how you handle your conversations with others: Listen unto others as you would want others to listen unto you.
Not only do you respect the person who speaks, you also respect his time. You hold on to the hope that there is a perfect time for everything, and that includes your questions and your thoughts, bub.
Not everything works as a duet. And if you know this by heart, you deserve a smiling, red star stamped on the back of your hand
- Your non-verbals are spot on
An effective listener takes in what a speaker says and translates the correct and proper reactions accordingly.
You’re an awesome listener when you know that leaning forward signifies interest in the conversation, while establishing eye contact. You nod when you agree, you express sadness when the conversation takes a sad route. You shake your head when what’s being discussed warrants it.
You also know the things not to do when engaged in a conversation with someone. You don’t play with your pen. You don’t tap your feet. You don’t fidget. You don’t take repeated glances at your watch. You don’t check how many likes your status update has gotten so far. You don’t stare off into the distance.
You know that body language is an important part of conversing with others, and you know how to responsibly respond via your actions.
- You encourage communication
We’ve all had conversations wherein the person you’re speaking with responds only with a curt yes or no. During such times, you feel like talking with Siri would be a more rewarding experience. And you are not wrong.
Great listeners know how to encourage communication — they prod the speaker on by asking intelligent questions. They are also open to new ideas. They realize that though they may not agree with everything a speaker says, they hold off on their judgment.
If you’re one of them, you mirror the energy of the speaker and keep the communication going forward. You’re also awesome enough to keep confidences: what’s off the record remains off the record. This way, you build trust and seal the deal for future talk-a-thons.
Effective listening is a skill that requires hard work and focus, but pays off well in the end.
If you’re one of the blessed few, continue to hone your talent. If you’re not one of them yet, it’s never too late to start practicing.
Pretty soon, you’ll start hearing great things such as positive feedback on your amazing communication skills, and maybe even a promotion in the workplace!