How did you learn to listen better

Learning to Listen: 8 Simple Tips for Better Listening

Never listen, just talk, talk, talk! Today, almost every promising employee is expected to have strong communication skills: He or she should be able to present, argue, convince - and all thanks to rousing eloquence and polished rhetoric. Not all wrong. But that quality is often forgotten that is far less exhausting and, on top of that, often leads to the goal much faster: being able to actively listen. According to surveys, 96 percent of adults think they are good listeners. But only very few actively practice it. In any case, we are not aware of any example of anyone “listening” to each other. As for talking, but very much ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

The art of active listening

Do you remember the legend of King Croesus of Lydia? Allegedly he asked the Oracle of Delphi at the time whether he should march against the Persians.

“If you do that,” the oracle prophesied, “you will destroy a mighty empire.” Great! Thought Croesus: which empire could be more powerful than that of the Persians? And the oracle had practically guaranteed that he would be victorious.

So Croesus went into battle haughty and certain of victory - and lost. In his wish for a colossal triumph, he only heard what he wanted to hear. What he overheard, if not ignored at all, was the question of which realm the oracle was referring to by the prophecy. So Croesus sealed his own downfall ...

When the Allensbach market research institute asked around 1,800 Germans what constitutes a good conversation for them, 80 percent answered: listen.

The benefits of listening are underestimated

This is especially true for executives. Most managers would say their main strength is ...

  • Your power to assert yourself.
  • Your ability to organize things.
  • Your ability to motivate others.
  • Your skills and knowledge.

Not all wrong. But the ability to listen is far more powerful. Being able to listen is massively underestimated in almost all companies. Therefore, it cannot be repeated enough: it is possibly the most powerful quality of a manager. Who listens to other people, especially his employees ...

  • learns more and can thus make better decisions.
  • can differentiate between the important and the unimportant - and then comment accordingly. By the way: it doesn't work the other way around.
  • makes the other person feel respected and valued and helps them to focus better.
  • helps himself to focus better and is more respected and valued afterwards. Anyone who always knows everything better may remain just a wind machine.

"The listener is a silent flatterer", Immanuel Kant recognized. And there are actually a number of studies that expose listening as a real career kick.

What Science Knows About Listening

For example, Harvard professor William Ury was able to show in his studies that people who actively listen to their counterparts achieve better negotiation results than those who mainly put forward their own arguments and ideas.

The body language expert Lillian Glass, on the other hand, writes in her book "The Advantage-Body Language" that people who can listen to others appear particularly strong and self-confident.

This is also confirmed by scientists from the University of Tennessee. In their studies, around a third of the test subjects rated good listeners as having the greatest communication skills - one of the 10 most important soft skills. You could also say:

If you really have something to say, you must first listen.

However - you have to admit - active listening is an act of strength. It is exhausting and makes you tired. While talking activates energies, listening tends to drain us mentally. Studies show: Even though we “only” listen, this takes up around 25 percent of the brain's capacity. If you want to mutate into a better listener, you need a certain mental strength. It is, in fact, a new way of life.

Active listening: the 4 listener types

There are now numerous studies that provide impressive evidence of the benefits of active listening. Harvard professor William Ury was able to show, for example, that good listeners do better in negotiations than skilled rhetoricians. The US author Anthony Alessandra, on the other hand, has identified four different types of listeners:

The listener

Strictly speaking, this is not a listener at all. Often, however, these are not malicious ignoramuses at all, but people with problems on an interpersonal level. They are more of an introvert and find it difficult to fully engage with the other person.

The selective listener

This guy doesn't really listen either - he just pretends to be. In fact, he or she only hears what he or she wants to hear. And when these guys aren't interested in something, they usually switch off. Consequence: Conversations with this listener type are at best scratching the surface.

The evaluating listener

This is where a practiced debater is hiding who claims not to have a dialogue, but to win a debate. Accordingly, he hears and understands the arguments, but his thoughts have long since reached his counter-arguments and the exchange of blows. These types are often very clever, analyze quickly - they just often lack real understanding and understanding.

The active listener

According to Alessandra, the ideal type of listener. He stops his inner monologue when he listens, gives his counterpart his exclusive attention and fully adjusts to the conversation partner - also emotionally. In short: he has emotional intelligence.

The good news is: Hardly anyone is just one of the four types of audience. As a rule - depending on the situation and conversation - we are a mixture of all four types, with a dominant expression for one type. The best thing, of course, is the tendency to actively listen (see video).

Facts worth knowing about listening and listening

  • Age
    An adult can speak around 125 words per minute. In the same time, however, he can listen to 400 words (Carver, Johnson, & Friedman, 1970). And: With age, our ability to listen increases - but not our willingness to do so.
  • Men
    Men can listen better than women. This is what scientists from Tübingen around Professor Hans-Otto Karnath found out. Even with strong sound, the men were still able to locate the source of the noise and concentrate on it. The researchers explain the difference in hearing with evolution: men were hunters. Hearing (the prey) was vital.
  • Ears
    We hear better with the right ear. If you want to ask someone else a favor - advice, a drink, a phone number, for example - speak in the person's right ear. It improves your chances enormously, say Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli from the University of Chieti.
  • Knowledge
    There are numerous coaches, trainers and meters of advice literature on how to give better speeches, present more convincingly, and sell better. But almost no seminars, trainings, books about better listening. We learn 85 percent of what we know through listening.

What distinguishes good listeners

Please do not confuse “listening” with the large eavesdropping, with “listening” and certainly not with silence. Good listeners are always good questioners:

  • They inquire if they have not understood something.
  • They repeat what they understand in their own words.

The point is not to chew what has been said, but to really understand the other person, to grasp his emotions, his motives. It also conveys mutual appreciation.

Ultimately, listening is a form of empathy and thus emotional intelligence.

You will find that most brilliant minds are also good listeners.

Listening also includes making all your senses receptive. Good listeners observe the body language of their counterpart, register the fluttering in their voice or feel the aggressive undertone.

And they respond to it - directly or via the meta-level. So you always seem fully concentrated and in return enjoy a lot of trust.

Because they think more than they speak, listeners also produce less nonsense.

In addition, listeners do not interrupt or complete each other's sentences. What's more, you are able to endure silence and listen to it while the other is still struggling for words or composure.

The 3 phases of active listening

  1. Observe
    Maintain eye contact, nod, allow breaks
  2. Understand
    Ask questions, summarize, listen to wishes
  3. reply
    Check understanding, reflect feelings, not teach

Listening prevents selective perception

This phenomenon is called selective perception in technical terms. What sounds negative is ultimately based on the strength of our brains to distinguish important from unimportant. Without this protective mechanism, we would not be able to process the wealth of information that pours down on us every day and would probably go crazy.

Selective perception is not just a strength (as Croesus case shows). It is not uncommon for the effect to be based simply on the fact that we are not listening closely. While the other is still talking, we have already drawn our conclusions and are already five kilometers further in our minds. Consequence: We talk past each other and misunderstand each other thoroughly.

8 tips for better listening

Listening is food for the brain. Our gray cells function like a battery that can be charged by means of electro-neural stimuli. For example, Giselher Guttmann, a neurologist at the University of Vienna, has observed that brain waves or even the smallest fluctuations of up to 30 millionths of a volt already influence our performance.

Tones, sounds and noises send their electrical potential to the cerebellum, which controls our body movements and our sense of balance. From there they even migrate into the limbic system, which in turn controls emotions and the release of hormones and other biochemical substances. Listening can influence our entire body - and initially relatively independent of the content. Here's how you can become a better listener yourself:

  1. Shut your mouth
    Seriously. You can't listen and talk at the same time. So let the other person speak first.
  2. Relax
    And not just yourself, but the whole atmosphere. How you look, whether you nod or shake your head - all of this naturally also affects the person opposite. And with it, whether he is really telling you something rich (which would be somehow helpful for listening) or just practicing small talk.
  3. Ask questions
    Listening is actually an “active” strategy. It should not be confused with silence. Good listeners ask clarifying questions, for example. They ask when they have not understood something and repeat what they have understood in their own words:
    • "So you think that ...?"
    • "Did you mean that ...?"
    • "Could you tell me more about that?"
    • "If you understand correctly, you say ..."
    • "I'm not sure if I understood correctly ..."
    • "In a nutshell: you say ..."
    • "In other words, you need ..."
    • "That sounds like ..."
    • "I have noticed, that…"
    • "I hear that ..."
    • "So far I have understood the following: ..."
    • "I summarize briefly: ..."
  4. Keep eye contact at all times
    Pay attention to the body language of your counterpart. Register micro-gestures or his nervous rocking of his feet under the table. In some situations you are even allowed to respond: “Sorry, am I making you nervous? You tremble so ... “If you do this gently and kindly, it opens up the other for you, because he feels that he is being taken seriously - and you immediately enjoy more trust.
  5. Don't babble in between
    And don't even complete his sentences. It's disrespectful.
  6. Make use of breaks
    For example, to digest what has been said and think about it. You don't have to be ashamed of yourself at all for the time-out. After all, they'll give even better answers later.
  7. Do not teach
    A good listener is interested in long-term and substantial solutions, not in quick effects - even less in ones that flatter their ego. Therefore, only give advice when asked to do so. Everything else seems latently intrusive and know-it-all. Listening is for a benevolent relationship, not self-therapy.
  8. Shut up more often
    And always listen longer than you talk. People who use less airtime than the other person during a conversation are consistently perceived as more intelligent and personable conversation partners.

How to get your boss to listen to you

Power makes you deaf. The more powerful people get, the more deaf they get. Only metaphorically, of course: With increasing power, managers become more immune to recommendations and advice - be it from experts, colleagues or employees. One could also say: You develop a growing "egalitarianism" towards deviant thoughts.

This is suggested by four experiments by Francesca Gino, Leigh Plunkett Tost and Richard Larrick from Harvard Business School: Every time their subjects felt something like power over the group of other participants, they became unwilling to listen to others, let alone to them to hear - and vice versa. You could also say that they developed autistic traits. But how do you get your boss to listen to you again? We have a few more recommendations here ...

  • In short
    No matter what you have to say to your boss - a problem that needs to be resolved immediately; an assessment that you would like to have from him: Try to put it in a maximum of 60 words. Managers have little time and love employees who can get to the heart of something.
  • Offer alternatives
    Speak in scenarios and let your boss pick the best alternative. Also address possible consequences and consequences of the choice. Of course, you can also manipulate his decision in this way: At the end you state your choice.
  • Make recommendation
    It is even better if you also include a recommendation for your analysis. This proves that you not only think ahead, but also think ahead. In any case, you will be sure of his attention as long as you do not need more than 180 words.

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[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]