Smart people talk fast and think fast. Often, they struggle to “slow down” and LISTEN.
A wise CEO once told me that enthusiastic employees (especially smart ones) are often so busy thinking forward to plan a response that they are not hearing the conversation of the moment, and miss key points or issues in a given situation.
How does one stay “in the moment” and really hear the full conversation? This is a skill that can be practiced.
1) Prepare your mind ahead of time, stop all non-relevant activities before your conversation begins.
2) Mentally review the topic or subject matter beforehand — also consider your audience – who are you listening to? do you know the details or background of the issue at hand?
3) Maintain eye contact at all times, try to focus on the key points of the conversation – show the speaker that you are sincerely interested and fully engaged in the conversation
4) When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the present moment, to the key points of conversation. Keep repeating this behavior and you will improve your concentration ability
5) Avoid distractions – position yourself away from noisy areas and known distractions
6) Acknowledge any emotional reactions from the speaker – anger, sadness etc.
7) Remain calm yourself, particularly if you are emotional about the topic. One trick? Breathe slowly and focus on calm, slow breaths as you watch your speaker. Remember that you are there to listen and understand, not to respond emotionally.
9) Use non-verbal signals to acknowledge your speaker (nod your head, lean forward, smile, etc)
10) Stay neutral – try not to formulate a “position” that agrees or disagrees – simply encourage the full exploration of the issue / train of thought