Southland Christian Ministry Training

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How To Improve Your Listening Skills

This week has again been very busy, with Walter still on holidays as well as a few extra jobs like spending two whole days facilitating a suicide intervention course (ASIST). On top of that I am not feeling well! The thought of having to go and see the doctor only makes it worse.

The fact is, we would like to think that we can compartmentalise life, and divide it up into neat packages. We all know that we should keep our work pressures at work, and our home pressures at home and that physical problems such as illness would never interfere with our thinking and performing. BUT the reality is everything affects everything else!  Do you know one of the first things affected? Our ability to listen! If you recognise that maybe you have got lazy in this area, here are seven helpful hints on how to improve our listening skills.

  1. Safe environment! Where you are and what else is going on around you will affect how well you listen. If you want to maximise the potential for effective communication, choose somewhere both of you are comfortable.
  2. Open Posture! Be aware of both your body language and the unspoken messages of the person you are listening to. Crossed arms and legs may suggest that they are feeling threatened, so make sure that you are sending positive messages.
  3. Lean forward! This sends the message that you are interested in what they are saying and if you are smiling as well it encourages them to keep opening up.
  4. Don’t judge or interrupt! Your aim in listening is not to prove them wrong or show that you are smarter, so give them your total attention.
  5. Invest yourself! Really get involved in the conversation by asking open ended questions, nod occasionally, showing that you appreciate their input. In effect, show some enthusiasm!
  6. Eye contact! Within our cultural context this is very important and somebody who doesn’t look you in the eye while you are speaking is showing that they don’t really want to hear!
  7. Reflect! Provide some feedback to prove that you have actually heard what they are saying, or ask for clarification.

None of that is particularly new, and I think I borrowed the ACROSTIC from one of my army colleagues, but the key is not knowing it but doing it! We can all become better listeners, but it will take effort. The fact is, each compartment of your life will benefit from this skill, and the more you practice these active listening the easier it gets, even if you are having a hard week!

Chaplain Ian S Whitley