“The less you speak, the more you will hear.” - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Throughout our schooling, we've taken classes to learn and improve our writing and reading skills. Unfortunately, we received little encouragement to develop and refine our listening skills and, as a result, we’ve become a society of talkers with few people to listen. Knowing how to listen well is one of the most valuable and useful of all the interpersonal skills. It rarely comes naturally and it requires the same attention and effort to effectively develop it as any other skill.

There are three basic and fundamental steps to be an effective listener:

1) Stop talking.
It's impossible to listen to someone else over your own voice and it's not possible for you to be completely focused on the speaker if you're talking at the same time.

In the words of Albert Einstein, "If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut."

2) Don't interrupt.
Sometimes it can be almost unbearable not to interrupt a speaker when something he said reminded you of a story, anecdote or experience. Or perhaps he touched a nerve or brought up a topic on which you hold a strong opinion and you're itching to speak.

Interrupting is distracting and constant interrupting is annoying to the speaker and the other participants in the conversation. It's also plain rude. The thing is, you can tell your story or give your opinion after the speaker has finished, so there's really no need to interrupt.

If you do interrupt, as soon as you realize it, just apologize and invite the speaker to continue what he was talking about by saying something like, "I'm sorry, I interrupted you. Please go on with what you were saying." The speaker will usually thank you for the consideration (if he has good social skills) and continue. You may find that the speaker, once he's finished, will turn to you and ask that you finish saying what you started.

3) Concentrate on the speaker.
Look at her, make eye contact and focus your attention on what she's saying. Don’t have another conversation going on in your mind. Don’t gaze around the room to see what other people are doing. Don’t start fiddling with something in your hand. Don’t pick up a pen and start doodling. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Just pay attention to the person speaking, hear the words she’s saying - and listen.

The Good Listener Advantage

“A good listener is a silent flatterer” - Proverb

Good listeners attract people to them because they know that by listening, they actively demonstrate attention, respect, and interest. Everyone wants to be heard, even the most quiet people. If you’re wanting to make new friends or improve the relationships you already have, put some more effort into your listening skills and watch how much better your relationships become.

Author's Bio: 

Laurie Wilhelm manages the Express Yourself to Success website, a one-stop e-source with information and techniques on communication skills, interpersonal skills, public speaking, networking and conflict resolution. Achieve your success by working effectively with others. Find out how you can boost your career and get a free eBook, What You Need to Succeed: Social Skills.