It seems as though we spend our lives preoccupied these days. How often do you see two people sitting at a dinner table both looking at their smart phones? Whether we are distracted by our phones, our problems, or too focused on what we want to say next, many of us could stand to take a deep breath, focus, and follow these rules of listening better.
Be Present and Attentive
Put down the cell phone, turn off the ringer, and promise yourself you will not look around the room at other people when listening. Take a moment before you start a conversation, take a deep breath, and make a conscious decision to be an active participant in the conversation. Don't be preoccupied with how the other person wants you to react. Be yourself and react with authentic emotions.
Listen as an Equal
When having a conversation with someone, what they often want most of all is a sounding board or an ear. Don't approach the conversation as though you are an expert - or someone above them - who needs to fix their problem. Try to approach conversations without an agenda or a plan in mind which will often taint what we hear and how we hear it.
Confirm What You Hear
Ask questions to clarify what you hear, ask the person to elaborate or explain, and confirm what you hear by stating what you heard. By actively listening to the other person and providing immediate confirmation of what you are hearing, and whether you are hearing correctly, you can clear up any misunderstandings before they grow into bigger issues.