Keep your ears closed and let your eyes listen

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How vital it is to be a good listener at work.

Do you listen or do you hear? I often ask this question to my friends. And 9 out of 10 time I get the same answer. Or should I say I get the same question in return — what’s the difference? That does not amaze me.

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But when I get the same reply from people working with me at the office, I get surprised. or should I say shocked! It came as even bigger shock when I discussed the same with friends from different industries who were working a reputed positions. The answers where people actually understood the difference between listening and hearing.

In an instant I decided that my post is going to be centered around the same. So, here I am. Let’s delve into some common mistakes people are making with one of their six senses — listening!

What’s the difference?

Let’s begin with the definition of these terms first. When we search for the terms ‘Listen vs Hear’, the first result that you get on your screen would be -

‘To hear is to physically experience the sense of sound. As long as one’s ear and brain are capable of processing sound waves, one can hear. whereas to listen is to pay attention to what the sounds means and understand it.’

The definition says quite a lot about the difference between the two. But now the question arises — how can we become better at listening? Or simply put how does someone become an active listener.

It’s no rocket science

To become an active listener, there are some minor changes in your life you need to embrace. Here’s a look at those changes -

1. Stop worrying about responding

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The biggest problem i’ve observed with people who are not active listeners is that they preoccupy their brain with the thought of responding to what is being said to them. In this hullabaloo to respond, they lose their focus on the words coming from the other person’s mouth. As a result they are able to understand only a part of the conversation. Hence, there is no effective communication, and problems start to rise.

A great way to change this habit is by imbibing patience in your attitude. Patience acclimatizes your brain to think before you respond. No longer do you start getting worried about your response without letting the other person finish. And that’s how the sense of hearing starts getting transformed into active listening.

2. Avoid getting distracted

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When we are having a conversation, everything but the person who is talking is a distraction. And in today’s world we are surrounded with distractions especially when we are in office and there’s so much going around. Pings from team members, constant emails, work updates and what not — all these add up to take your mind away from the topic. And hence listening turns into hearing and so on.

To end all this, the first thing you ought to do is get away from all these distractions when you are talking to someone. For instance, if you are having a conversation with someone at your workstation, then for a moment just minimize the working screen, put your smartphone away and face that person. With these small changes in your behavior you can actually move the first step on the ladder of active listening.

3. Maintain active body language

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Taking on from where we left in the last point, your body language plays a big role in communication. Whether you are talking or listening, maintaining a positive body language is a must. Our brain responds to our body’s behavior. When are sitting in a laid back posture on your chair, you are mentally not in an active state. This leads to a negative impact on your brain’s ability to respond. At the same time, it also puts an impression on the speaker that you are not interested in the conversation.

This is where gestures can play a big role. A great way to show you are actively listening to someone is use the mirroring technique. As the name says it, you have to mirror the gestures of the person who is communicating with you. Mirroring does not mean you have to copy what the other person is doing. You just have make sure that your body remains in active state, by constantly showing gestures in accordance to the person’s speech.

This amazing post on importance of gestures while listening by Patti Wood, MA, CSP and certified Gold Standard of Body Language Experts, will help you understand in a better way.

4. Incorporate verbal nods

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The points mentioned above can work great when you are having face to face conversations. But what if the conversation is being carried out over a phone call? Or, maybe on chat? How to reassure the other person that you are actively listening. Even more, how to make sure that you remain at bay from all the distractions mentioned above. After all, when the other person is not sitting besides you to talk, the probability of losing interest in the conversation automatically increases manifolds.

This is where verbal nods can play a massive role. No one likes to have dead silence on the other side when you are having a conversation. Small verses like I see, Yes, Uh Huh, and more are the common examples of verbal nods which you can practice while having conversation. These can work great not only in telephonic conversations, but also during face to face conversations as well. These gestures represent that you are actively listening to what is being said.

This was all about habits that you can inculcate in your life to become an active listener. Now the question that will automatically pop-up in your mind here would be — what are the benefits of becoming one?

Well, we are going to talk about that in our next post. In the meanwhile you can start practicing these tricks and see where they land you.

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Vartika Kashyap is a seasoned marketing professional who is an expert in digital marketing and entrepreneurship. She’s been featured among LinkedIn’s Top Voices for the year 2016. She currently runs the marketing team at ProofHub — a project management software for teams of all sizes. Connect with Vartika on LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter.

Also follow our company page @ProofHub to get the recent updates about our tool, published articles, motivational quotes & presentations.

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Originally published at LinkedIn.

Written by

Chief Marketing Officer@ProofHub. Featured writer on LinkedIn. Contributor at Elearning Industry, Dzone, Your Story and Business.com.

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