Boost Your Listening Skills


In a recent FORBES training, there were 10 key things to learn about boosting or building your volunteer listening skills.

Step 1: Face the speaker and maintain eye contact

Eye Contact is Essential

When we talk, we look each other in the eye. This is an essential in effective listening skills. To be an effective volunteer, practice looking the person you are talking to directly in their left eye.

Step 2: Be attentive, but relaxed

Relax as you speak to and listen to your client

Now that you’ve made eye contact, relax. You don’t have to stare fixedly at the other person. You can look away now and then and carry on like a normal person. The important thing is to be attentive. The dictionary says that to “attend” another person means to:
In the Forbes article they list these key factors to be aware of:
be present
give attention
apply or direct yourself
pay attention
remain ready to serve

In other words, mentally screen out all possible distractions, like background activity, other conversations, and noise.

Step 3: Keep an open mind.

As you listen, keep an open mind

Listen to every client without jumping to conclusions. Remember that your client is likely going to use her body language to represent the thoughts and feelings inside her brain. You don’t know what those thoughts and feelings are and the only way you’ll find out is by listening.

Step 4: Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying

Create a picture in your mind as she talks

Allow your mind to create a mental model of the information being communicated. When it’s your turn to listen, don’t spend the time planning what to say next. You can’t rehearse and listen at the same time. Think only about what your client is saying.

Step 5: Don't interrupt and don't impose your solutions

Listen rather than interrupt her

Interrupting sends a variety of messages. It says:

“I’m more important than you are.”
“What I have to say is more interesting, accurate or relevant.”
“I don’t really care what you think.”
“I don’t have time for your opinion.”
“This isn’t a conversation, it’s a contest, and I’m going to win.”
We all think and speak at different rates. If you are a quick thinker and an agile talker, the burden is on you to relax your pace for the slower, more thoughtful communicator—or for the client that has trouble expressing herself.

Step 6: Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions

Wait and then pause before using clarifying questions

When you don’t understand something, of course, you should ask the speaker to explain it to you. But rather than interrupt, wait until the speaker pauses. Then say something like, “Back up a second. I didn’t understand what you just said about…”

Step 7: Ask questions only to ensure understanding

Ask open-ended vs yes/no questions

Your thoughtful questions lead your client in directions that have nothing to do with where they thought they were going. Sometimes we work our way back to the original topic, but very often we don’t. The key is to avoid yes-no type questions. Instead, use open ended questions that make the client talk.

Step 8: Try to feel what the speaker is feeling

Try to feel what your client feels

To experience empathy, you have to put yourself in your client’s place and allow yourself to feel what it is like to be her at that moment. This is not an easy thing to do. It takes energy and concentration. But it is a generous and helpful thing to do, and it facilitates communication like nothing else does.

Step 9: Give the speaker regular feedback

Use Feedback Regualarly

Show that you understand where the Client is coming from by reflecting the speaker’s feelings. “You must be worried!” “What a terrible ordeal for you.” “I can see that you are confused.” If the speaker’s feelings are hidden or unclear, then occasionally paraphrase the content of the message

Step 10: Pay attention to what isn't said—to nonverbal cues

Watch for nonverbal cues

We glean a great deal of information about each other without saying a word. Face to face with a person, you can detect enthusiasm, boredom, or irritation very quickly in the expression around the eyes, the set of the mouth, the slope of the shoulders. These are clues you can’t ignore. When listening, remember that words convey only a fraction of the message.

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