2 Habits That Will Make You A Better Listener

 You usually hear people talk about how important it is to "be a good listener." But you definitely don't hear exact recommendations on how to do it.

In the rest of this article, I'll introduce you to 4 simple competencies you can analyze to increase your effectiveness as an audience. Based on a well-tested set of psychology techniques known as motivational interviewing, these skills help you become a better listener and create happier and stronger relationships in your life. Whether you're trying to work through a tough dialogue with your partner or negotiating a raise at work, the art of high-quality listening is key to a superior relationship.

1. Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions encourage your character to be complex and inform the story. They are unlike closed questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" statement.

For example:

You and your partner are trying to figure out where to send your son to college next year and you can't quite agree on a good priority, and tonight is the "big night" when you finally hit it off. Sit down to get what you're looking at everyone. With a difficult conversation. Your partner presents their case for why they think you need to send your son to "their" school.

A closed query would be something like: Are you positive that a STEM college would really fit into his good interests given his passion for artwork and design? This kind of closed questioning is basically the equivalent of a witness… since your partner is unlikely to magically change their mind and say no, their completely different alternative is actually saying yes. Which is not all that productive.

Alternatively, you should ask an open-ended question like: Tell me a little bit about what kind of possibilities they have for the artwork and plan?

Getting into the habit of asking open-ended rather than closed-ended questions has many benefits, but one of the biggest is:

Open-ended questions reduce defensiveness

Closed questions regularly make people feel like they are a witness being cross-examined in a courtroom. And so understandably, it makes them defensive. And as you know, the moment anyone starts trying to get defensive, the odds of dialogue drop dramatically.

On the other hand, by inviting the different person into the complex and sharing their story, you are communicating to them that you are involved in their perspective. This has a profoundly disarming effect and tends to reduce defensiveness, and, in turn, increases the difficulties of productively intended dialogue.

Here are some examples of well-known open-ended questions you can use:

  • Can you help me identify _______?
  • Can you tell me a little about how you came to this idea/belief/decision?
  • What are some elements that make you feel this way inside?
  • What have you tried in the past?
  • Interesting… can you tell me a little more about it?
  • What do you think might be some unusual possibilities going forward?
  • What do you think are some of the reasons ______ hasn't worked hard in the past?
  • Can you tell the story of the foundation of ______?
  • What part of _______ do you find most difficult?

2. Affirmations

Affirmations are simple statements that confirm or reinforce something powerful in a different person or their story.

For example:

You're in a tough conversation with your boss about a project that's behind schedule and everyone on staff is under a lot of stress.

Your boss explains all of the things they've tried to get back on music without success and have gotten it back. An affirmation will likely go something like this: Yes, most of them don't work, unfortunately, however, in fact, choosing to have your Jane help out the staff has been genuinely helpful. He had some really valid ideas that didn't move the needle but I'm incredibly positive will soon be useful.

When we want to be good listeners, it is regularly due to the fact that the situation is difficult and full of problems. And sometimes, the fact that we are completely focused on the problems and what is no longer working becomes the problem itself. This is why affirmations are so powerful…

Affirmations build confidence that things can improve.

Many challenging conversations become terrifying because of the fact that one or every episode leads to the loss of hope that things can get better. And when humans lose hope, dialogue is inconclusive rather than dead-end.

But no matter how many challenges you have to deal with, the first type of odds you have to successfully do this is when humans are convinced that they can win regardless of the challenges.

Here are some examples of affirmations you can use:

  • This is indeed a valid question…
  • What you described earlier about _______ used to be really insightful…
  • It sounds like this was a difficult situation for you at some point, but I feel like you handled it as well as you could.
  • I can tell you've spent a lot of time thinking about this.
  • Despite how much we disagree, I certainly appreciate how deeply you care.