Listening is harder than speaking. Even the best listeners sometimes have to bite their tongues to stop from reacting, interrupting, or trying to deal with the person talking. Here are four ways you can truly listen:
- Avoid distractions. This doesn't just mean putting down the Blackberry or closing your web browser. Try not to think about what you're going to say next. Simply focus on what the other person says.
- Listen for content and emotion. When people are concerned about something and are speaking with you, there is both content (the issue) and emotion (how they're feeling). Listen for both. You'll need them in the next step.
- Repeat back by paraphrasing concisely. This sometimes feels silly, but repeating back what you heard - in the form of a clear, concise paraphrase - shows the other person that you're listening and you're getting it.
- Ask thoughtful questions. Ask open-ended questions that help you see the issue more clearly and allow your conversation partner to go deeper into what s/he cares about.
Adapted from "How to Really Listen" by Peter Bregman.