Learning the Language of Listening

Learning to become a fluent listener is a lot like learning a new language. It takes dedication, practice and keeping off your smartphone to check for email messages.In learning any new language, you have to figure out where to begin. That is also true for learning the language of listening.

If you belong to the "I'm the Smartest Guy in the Room" club or feel obliged to explain why everyone else is wrong, then listening is probably a foreign language to you. 

Unfortunately, there isn't a RosettaStone tape to learn to listen. You have to learn on your own, often cold turkey.

Here are some suggestions for where to start:

Watch Good Listeners 

Just as some people learn a new language by watching TV shows in that language, you can learn a lot about listening by watching good listeners. You may not have to go very far to find them. They may be coworkers or your employees. Put them in charge of a brainstorming session and see how they guide a conversation and listen.

Be an Active Listener

One of the best ways to learn to speak a new language is to converse with people who speak the language. Think of that as active practicing. You can do the same thing with listening. Concentrate on listening to what people say over coffee, in staff meetings or other settings. One way to reinforce active listening is to make notes. Writing down what people say will help you remember the valuable things they said.

Put What Your Hear in Perspective

It is easier to learn Italian if you have studied Spanish. Similarly, you can digest what you hear better if you make an effort to put it into some context. Our brains have a built-in filing system centered on familiarity. If we search our mental file drawers, new information can conveniently and memorably slide into place.

Let Your Empathetic Side Shine Through 

New language learners ask lots of questions about the meaning of words and their inflection. Empathetic listeners also ask a lot of questions that move a conversation along instead of dominating it by making statements. They also acknowledge emotions and respond accordingly, which builds rapport and trust while giving an empathetic listener a deeper understanding of what is being said.

Let Your Body Do the Talking

People can say a lot without words. Your body language while listening will convey a lot, too. If you are leaning forward and maintaining eye contact, you send a signal that you are interested and paying attention. 

Don't Yield to Distracting Temptations

Mastering a new language can be frustrating, which makes distractions all the more tempting. Listening can be equally frustrating, so make sure to check your temptation to dig out your smartphone to look at email messages. You can't listen effectively by listening in spurts. Be into listening for the long haul.

Becoming a Fluent Listener 

To learn a language requires full-time dedication. You need to practice. The same is true with listening. Diligent practice will turn you into a fluent listener.