Listening is one of those skills that my clients really have trouble with and let’s face it, it’s really hard! One thing I learned in coach training is that the only way to get better at listening is to practice.
Recently, I gave a client an assignment to practice her listening skills. I asked her to go home at the end of her day, ask her husband, “How was your day?” and just be quiet and listen to him for five solid minutes.
How did it go? She reported back that five minutes was a long time. She found it hard to just listen, rather than interrupting or adding her two cents or summarizing like she usually did. But she noticed that at the end of the five minutes, her husband really seemed to feel better. As he talked without interruption, he became more calm. So it really helped him to get the whole topic out without her two cents.
When she revealed that he was part of an experiment, he laughed and said, “I really like it. I like that you listened. I appreciated that you didn’t interrupt me.”
When I asked my client what was going on in her head when she listened for five minutes straight, she said she caught herself several times wanting to say things that didn’t add value and really wouldn’t have moved the conversation forward. It was just her need to talk.
To listen better at home and at work was one of her goals, so she promised to keep working on this in all her interactions with others.
Do you want to improve your relationships with people by practicing good listening skills? First, let’s look closer at what is good listening. Good listening means you’re fully attentive. You’re not busy typing on the computer or looking away. You are giving good eye contact, and you are possibly leaning forward. This body language will show that you’re listening because you are facing the person. Good listening is hard to do – you really have to give 100% of your attention – but is well worth the effort for the benefits you’ll gain in your relationships.
Why don’t you try it tonight? When you go home to your friend or your spouse or to your children, listen to them 100% for five minutes without interrupting and just see what happens. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and I’d love to hear about your results!
You can also watch Susan discussing this topic in a brief video: