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Signs You’re a Terrible Listener

June 9, 2016 | Categories:

Are most of your conversations in one ear and out the other? Here’s expert advice on how to focus, connect, and improve your listening skills.

You interject with a comment or story immediately.
Many of us don’t “listen” at all; we’re just waiting for our turn to talk, says Gerald M. Goodman, PhD, professor of clinical psychology at UCLA and author of The Talk Book: The Intimate Science of Communicating in Close Relationships. “You can improve your attention giving after you become aware of how rushed responses, interruptions, and overtalk contribute to verbal crowding in conversations,” he says. The next time you’re in a conversation, be aware of how soon you feel like you want to share your comment and be honest about whether you’re really listening. Take a breath and consider whether your contribution will really add to the discussion. Positive body language also helps you feel more connected.

You get bored with long-winded storytellers.
We’ve all been stuck in the company of someone droning on and on and wondering how we can get out of this conversation. You can still be a good listener and help move the situation along, suggests Dr. Goodman. Ask yourself, “What is the heart of what he or she is trying to say to me?” Figure out the essential message and see if you can summarize the whole thing in one sentence. You could say, “It seems like what you’re really saying is…” The speaker won’t need to go on with what they’re saying because they’ll feel understood. Check out these tips for making small talk naturally.

Here’s why your brain demands a narrative.

You don’t allow someone to think out loud.

When a coworker knocks on your office door and says they want to run something by you, if you interject with advice before hearing them out, you may interfere with letting them work the problem out themselves. “When someone is trying to come to an insight, they’re semi-talking to themselves,” says Dr. Goodman. “It’s best to let the person talk like this for a while, as long as you see them moving forward.” This kind of situation—when someone is talking mostly to themselves out loud as part of problem solving—is different than when they’re just talking to hear themselves talk. Read on for how to deal with that type of talker.

You find yourself mentally drifting whenever you’re on the phone.
When your friend is sharing an important story and you realize your mind has wandered off, be candid about it, suggests Dr. Goodman. Interrupt with something like, “I’m sorry but my mind slipped and I lost the last minute of what you said, can you please repeat that?” It’ll make the storyteller feel like you’re being honest and are still interested in hearing them speak. “It often creates a touch more trust between the conversationalists,” says Dr. Goodman.

Read the full article on ReadersDigest.com.

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