With the constant distraction of our screens, it’s more important than ever to sharpen our listening skills so we can better connect and collaborate with others. Being a good listener is critical to fostering personal and professional growth, but it’s not always easy to turn off the rest of the world and tune in to the conversations happening right in front of us.
We asked members of the Thrive community to share their strategies for becoming better listeners.
Use meditation to calm a restless mind
“Meditation is my tool to improve my listening skills. It has helped me gain mastery over my tendency to fidget, be distracted, and interrupt. Meditation helps me manage my jerky and jumpy mind so I can remain fully attentive to the person speaking. Secondly, my meditation practice helps me prioritize self-care, so that I can better care for others and listen with my whole being. When someone is listening from an enthusiastic place, I am more excited about my own story — I hope to return this priceless gift!”
—Meris R. Gebahrdt, meditation expert, New York, NY
“A few phrases have helped me develop as an active listener, including the idea of seeking first to understand before being understood, validating the feelings of others, and being slow to speak and quick to listen. When someone is vulnerable and shares something with me, it’s not uncommon that I thank them for sharing. I try to eliminate barriers to listening by keeping my phone down and away when engaging. We often put far too much emphasis on speaking, and not enough on listening. Each person contributes, and I believe we can learn a lot from one another in conversations.”
—Josh Neuer, licensed professional counselor, Greenville, SC
Show curiosity and create a safe space
“My executive coach once told me that great listeners not only hear a person out, but also ask thoughtful questions that promote discovery and insight. This provides evidence that a person is not just listening, but comprehending to further the conversation. A Microstep I’ve used to great effect is to create a safe space in which ideas, feelings, or emotions can be expressed well.”
—Vinutha Narayan, global head of strategic projects, San Francisco, CA
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