6 Ways to Become a Better Listener If You're Easily Distracted
Being a good listener is a lot harder for some than it is for others.
Sometimes, getting distracted and zoning out is harmless, but other times, it can lead to missing out on important information or even start to negatively impact our relationships. If being a bad listener is starting to hinder you, here are some of our top tips for becoming a better one.
Look as Well as Listen
Just listening isn't always indicative of actually being a good listener. When you want to be attentive, start by looking at the speaker and maintaining eye contact, if possible. In most situations, looking away makes it look like you're not present, signaling to the speaker that you don't care about what they're saying. Even if you're paying good attention, you don't come off as a good listener.
Staying visually focused on the person also prevents outside distractions. If your eyes are planted firmly on the person, you're not going to get sidetracked by something happening in the background or start fiddling around on your phone. If eye contact is difficult for you, you can also try looking at their forehead or in the vague direction of that face for a similar effect. Plus, watching someone while they talk to you will help you pick up on body language and what's being communicated beyond the language being used.
Think of It as a Relationship-Builder
If you're tuning out during conversations because you don't see what you're getting out of them, perhaps reframing your thinking will help you stay on track. Imagine every discussion as a give and take. When you listen attentively to someone, not only do you open up the potential for learning something from them or about them, but you also demonstrate that you care. You wind up understanding them better, and they come to appreciate the effort you put into hearing them out. The better you listen, whether it's to a friend, a family member or a significant other, the more that relationship can grow.
Engage, But Don't Overtake
A conversation is a two-way street, so if you just sit there silently nodding the whole time, the speaker might not feel like they're being heard. When they've paused and it's appropriate, it might be wise to show you're listening by reiterating a point or summing up what they just said to make sure you're on the same page. If you've got it slightly wrong, they can help straighten your thinking, and if you've got it right, this can be a great jumping-off point to take the conversation further or to contribute your thoughts.
You can also ask questions that show you're curious about the topic of discussion, or simply to clarify points you're unsure of. If you're ever uncertain, instead of assuming someone's meaning, don't be afraid to ask questions. It shows that you're seeking answers and that you're truly listening.
At the same time, take care not to talk over the other person. Being a good listener is also about knowing when to be quiet. It also doesn't mean coming up with a response to what they have to say while they're still talking. If you're waiting for them to finish up so you can put in your two cents, you're going to miss the most important parts. Chances are, by the time they're finished, what you've planned to say won't be relevant anyway. You may be tempted to interrupt or fix the speaker's problems right away, but they'll gain more from you just being there and lending an ear. Give advice when it's being asked for. The rest of the time, listen and sympathize.
Turn Their Words Into a Mental Movie
Some people have a hard time paying attention to and absorbing spoken information because they're visual learners. When that's the case, it can be helpful to translate what's being said into a little movie in your head. Imagining the scenarios as they play out can help you better grasp the words and recall the knowledge later. It also forces you to pay close attention in the moment. Imagining the situation can also help you empathize with the speaker on an emotional level. You'll understand them better and build an emotional attachment to the memory, making it easier to remember.
Put Your Phone Away
No matter how hard you're trying to pay attention to someone, you're simply not going to absorb everything they're saying if you keep getting distracted by notifications on your phone or you're simultaneously browsing social media. We know it's hard, but putting that phone away can do wonders for your ability to be present and attentive. Plus, no one feels like they're being respected or listened to when the other person is on their phone. If you need to use your phone for a second, be quick and then immediately put it away—or better yet, make a fast note of what you need to do, and save it for after the conversation has ended.
Know Your Body and Mind
There are going to be times when you'll simply be too exhausted or distracted to be a good listener. It happens to the best of us, so don't sweat it. When you recognize that you didn't get nearly enough sleep or that you can't think straight because you're pining over your crush, accept that you're probably not going to be the best student or most sympathetic friend that day. Before a person starts discussing an important topic with you, warn them that you're feeling zoned out, tired or distracted and that you might be a little slow on the uptake. Even if they're not thrilled about it, at least they'll be warned, and honesty is always the best policy.
Not that you've learned a few tips, maybe it's time to pass them on to someone else. Click HERE for tips on how to tell your friend they're a bad listener.