The Greatest Gift You Can Give

Steve Shallenberger said, “One of the greatest gifts you can give to others is to really listen to them and to be fully with them as they talk to you.”

Do you really listen?

This article reviews the 5 essential skills to really listen. Consider as you review them where you do well and where you can improve. Let’s jump into it!

The 5 Skills of Listening

Below are five simple skills, and while they are not always easy to practice, they are all skills that can be learned and mastered, including by you:

  1. Look the person in the eyes
  2. Don’t worry about what you’re going to say next
  3. Pay attention to body language
  4. Acknowledge them and what’s been said
  5. Repeat back and check for understanding

Look a Person In the Eyes

When you look a person in the eyes they know they have your undivided attention, that you care, and that you want to listen and want to understand. This also opens your eyes to see past the words that are being said and into how they are feeling. The eyes are the window to the soul – so look people in the eye as you’re listening.

Don't Worry About What You'll Say

Just listen. Sometimes this is hard. Just take a breath, be patient, and try to fully and completely understand what a person is saying, with both their words and with their body language.

Pay Attention to Body Language

Communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only. Notice the other person’s body language and what it’s saying. Is it closed? Open? Concerned? Nervous? Scared? Indifferent? Loose and care-free? Focused and engaged? Clenched fists, downcast eyes, leaning forward, open arms, good posture, head nods yes, or head nods no? Body language will tell you a lot, so pay attention to it.

Acknowledge Them and What They’re Saying

Use this skill to create a buffer between what a person has said and what you’ll say. It’s like giving a conversation a deep breath, a chance to settle. Much like adding white space to text by adding paragraphs and spacing it out. This is the gentle clutch as you shift gears. This may seem insignificant until you start applying it to your conversations, and you’ll find that it adds a significant layer of connection, understanding, and calm to a conversation.

This is simply saying, “Thank you for sharing that, {name}.” “That’s hard to share {name}, I appreciate you sharing it.” “I’m glad you shared this with me {name}.” Studies have shown this to be a vital step to connecting in conversation, small though it may seem.

Repeat Back and Confirm Understanding

Avoid the tendency to jump to “your turn to talk.” You’ll be surprised how often you’ve filtered what was said and missed something. You’ll also be surprised with how frequently a person will dive deeper into the real issues that they’ve not yet shared. How do you confirm understanding? With a few simple phrases:

  • “Just to make sure I understand, you’re saying that …”
  • “I want to make sure this is clear in my head, you feel that …”
  • “It sounds like you feel …?”
  • “It seems like  … ?”

Wrapping Up

Where are you doing well? Where can you improve? Make a focused effort on being a better listener by practicing these skills, and watch! You’ll improve your connection, engagement, relationships, trust, morale, retention, and capacity to lead. That’s becoming your best.

“The wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?”

Edward H. Richards

Want to see other articles and posts by Becoming Your Best? Go here.

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