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3 Tips to Help You Evaluate Your Listening Skills

Most people think that listening is a passive activity. They believe that all you have to do is sit there and wait for the other person to stop talking so you can start. However, good listening involves a great deal of concentration and focus. We tend to intuitively know when we feel heard. But how can you evaluate if you have done a good job of listening to someone else? Here are three things you can do now to assess how well you listened:

Write the conversation as well as you remember it verbatim:

Using the first initials of yourself and the person you’re listening to, as quickly as you can after the conversation, write down everything you can remember. If you can’t remember large chunks of the conversation, that’s a clue that you may not have been listening as well as possible. It may happen that after you stop writing, you’ll remember portions of the conversation later, or even better, go back to the person you had the conversation with, and ask them if this is how they remember the conversation. When asking for others' insights on how a conversation went, remember that their perspective is valid to them, even if it differs from your memory. Try to be clear and concise in your writing and inquire with an open mind.

Ask yourself: Was I conscious of the outcome I hoped for? And did I achieve it?

It's important to establish an intention or desired outcome for any conversation. Like using a GPS, you must first know where you intend to go before you begin your journey. If someone asks us to listen while they vent, we want to make sure we are clear about what the outcome should be. This lets them know that we are hearing their feelings and that they matter to us. If there is something else that they want from the conversation, knowing that is important too. Sharing ideas is vastly different from needing to vent.

If there were moments of silence, did you sit with them or try to fill them? If you filled them, what did you fill them with?

Our society seems to find silence awkward and uncomfortable. In reality, we process during those silences. When we speak over them, we short-change the opportunity to sort through things. Sometimes, people need time to find the words. Learning to be comfortable with silence, like learning most new things, happens in stages. First, we start to become aware and consider if we want change. Next, we make attempts to change and usually realize after the fact that we didn’t succeed. Then we try it, and it's uncomfortable. This practice, though at times frustrating, does lead to change. Awareness grows. Awkwardness disappears.

As you practice, you will begin to notice improvements. It’s fine to break it down into smaller chunks as you practice. You will, over time, be a better listener.


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