It’s too easy to let your mind focus solely on planning what you’re going to say and where you're going to fit it into the meeting that you don't spend time listening to what others are saying.
Next time you have a conversation challenge yourself to do these 5 things to improve your listening skills:
1. More than hearing the mere words being said, try to understand the complete message of what the person is trying to say. I like to take notes when having a conversation on a topic I know I’ll need to take away from. However, keep the notes short and to the point to be able to maintain eye contact with the speaker while doing so.
2. Make an effort to let there be a moment of silence after the speaker has finished. Don’t let yourself jump into your own tirade. Welcome a moment of silence. Let yourself fully listen to the speaker, leaving a moment to think of your response after they’ve finished.
3. Challenge yourself to ask a question in relation to what has just been said. This shows that you’ve listened and will force you to further understand and avoid jumping to conclusions.
4. Paraphrase what you’ve just been told. After a person has finished speaking say: “So to recap….” or “What you mean is…”. This is a great way to reflect and see if you’ve missed something.
5. Avoid interrupting. If someone is repeating information they’ve already given it’s natural to want to interrupt them to avoid this. They may be repeating themselves because they’re unsure you understand the points they’re trying to make. Following point 3 by recapping what you’ve understood may satisfy them in knowing that you’ve understood their point.
Communication skills are a imperative to working in any environment. Improve them by actively listening and talking less yourself and you will come to realize how much you can learn.