Communication is an important component of social life. It enables you to connect with others. However, contrary to popular belief, communication skills are not synonymous to effective talking only—although these are often used interchangeably. Talking or speech is just a subset of communication which is a larger concept and includes both, talking and listening. Yes, communication also means listening to and understanding others. We all have agony-aunts or uncles to go to when we are in trouble and we all know the peace that comes from letting our emotions out in front of these good listeners. But, important as it is, listening isn’t an innate characteristic of human beings. We talk, we express but when it comes to listening, we fizz out by either getting impatient or by zoning out completely. If you do realize the importance of listening and are ready to make an effort to develop it as a skill within you, then read the following section and learn how to be a good listener.
Listening Activities For Individuals
Place yourself in a calm place and try to listen to nature and its sounds, with an effort to guess the origin of that sound. You may find your attention getting distracted after some time and as soon as you realize that, try to bring it back. With regular practice, you can feel your concentration and listening skills improving considerably.
This is another version of the previous activity only with a higher level of complexity. Find a place with many people around and listen to their conversation and make conscious effort to make sense of what they are saying. Try the same on another group, probably a bit farther placed. Gradually, you’ll start understanding what people are saying and this, in turn, would improve your concentration and listening skills. This activity would help you concentrate even in midst of a crowd.
Place yourself in the situation mentioned in activity 2 - this time, try focusing on people’s moods instead of voices. Concentrate on the facial expression of each person and try to judge their moods. This activity helps you control your focus on a specific object with all of your senses. This sharpens listening skills.
Activities For Groups
Pair up people into teams of two. Allot responsibility to each pair such that one person speaks while the other person writes it down and vice versa. At the end of the speech, check whether the notes include all the points of the speech and analyze what points are left. Practicing this exercise regularly improves your listening skills considerably. The topics allotted can be: favorite person, memorable moment in life, etc.
Another variation of the previous group activity can be this one. Gather all the people and give them a list of questions; add some basic questions about favorite colour, dream career etc, and pose these questions to a selected member while others listen. Then ask the listening members to write down the questions asked and the person’s answer to those questions. This checks attention, concentration and improves listening.
Listen For Lies
Divide the group into two teams. Ask one of the members to read out a selected passage; take a story or an article as an example. Let the group listen to this carefully and then ask the person to read this passage again but this time, with some changes. Those members who identify the changes can write them and point them out when the reading is over. The team getting maximum differences wins.
Tips To Become An Active Listener
Pay attention to what the other person says. Moving your eyeballs constantly or communicating with others through sign language are taken as insulting signs and make the speaker uninterested.
Acknowledge what the other person says with gestures, words or facial expressions like nodding heads or just saying ‘you are right’. Questions are a sign of interest and are always welcome. But make sure you do not ask silly or irrelevant questions.
Ask questions like ‘what do you mean by saying this’ or say ‘I didn’t get your point’ etc to make the communication clear of misunderstanding. This makes the speaker happy too because it shows that you listened to what the person said.
Try not to interrupt the person and allow him/her to complete the conversation and talk only after the person is done with his part.
Do respond to the conversation otherwise it will become one-sided and both the speaker and listener would lose interest.
Mentioned above are some activities to improve your listening skills with some tips for you to concentrate on. Practice these exercises and consider the tips to improve your listening skills which in turn improve your communication skills.