Here are effective cornerstone principles to follow to listen well.
- Let's talk about the structure of meaningful listening. What are the key components to make sure you're really doing it well? Here are six cornerstone principles to follow to listen effectively. First, it's about using silence and space. Of course, this makes sense. Listening is about letting the other person talk. They can't do it if they don't have quiet and a break in the conversation in which to operate. Are you giving them the space they need to speak? That's question one. Next, you might not think on the surface this relates to listening, but you also have to consider eye contact.
Eye contact shows you're engaged and it encourages people to tell you more. It's a way of conveying empathy and understanding. Without it, people will be far less likely to want to open up. Third, watch out for body language. There's yours, of course. You don't want to have closed body language where you've got your arms folded up and you're sending the message, "Don't bother me," or "I'm angry." But there's also theirs. If you notice them shifting with a new turn in the conversation, maybe they suddenly close up their arms or they start tapping their foot or fingers, those can be signs that something is making them uncomfortable.
Depending on the nature of the conversation and your relationship, this might just be something you note or something you ask about, but it provides valuable information. Fourth, you may want to disclose a certain amount of information. That shows you empathize and can relate to what they're talking about. "I had a project fail too during "my first year at the company." But if you hijack the conversation, make it all about you, you've lost them. They think, "She only wants to talk about herself." Interject with personal stories only sparingly.
If they want to know more, they can ask. Fifth, make sure you're asking open-ended questions. It doesn't give someone much room to elaborate or connect with you if you're only asking a series of yes or no questions. Instead, make sure that you're allowing them room to expound so you can understand the reasons behind what they're saying. Finally, plenty of times you'll hear something and think, "That's ridiculous." But instead of saying that, here's a trick. Say, "Help me understand." because it's possible they're full of it, but it's also possible they know something you don't.
Before leaping to conclusions, ask for more data and you might be surprised what you discover. By following these strategies and honoring the structure of good listening, you can dramatically increase your effectiveness.