Listening is an important social skill needed in all areas of life. Whether you’re providing support for a loved one, dealing with colleagues or relationships, giving a piece of advice, or going through a disagreement, you would need to practice the art of listening.
Developing a good listening habit is the first step to effective communication. Many a time, we are guilty of talking over people’s words, not waiting to hear what they have to say, probably because we have a whole to say and we lack the patience to hear theirs. But have we stopped to think that others also have a lot to say?
Listening to others’ opinions doesn’t have to influence your opinion or choice on a matter. It doesn’t mean your opinion is not valid or you’ve got nothing to say.
It only shows your willingness to learn, your tolerance for differences, your value for others, and your effective communication skills.
When we do more listening than speaking, then we are bridging the gap between a listener and a speaker and creating a stronger relationship.
Do you think you lack good listening skills? Are you finding it hard to listen to Others’ opinions? Do you need ways to effectively listen to others? Then this article is for you.
We will take you through steps that will help you listen to others’ opinions.
10 Ways to Listen to Others’ Opinions
The importance of listening to what others have to say on a subject matter cannot be overemphasized. No man knows it all.
And so we have to learn to listen to others. The following steps will lead you in the right direction.
1. Understand that Others May Have A Different Opinion
First, understanding that humans are built differently though similar and so the way they reason even on a specific topic will differ, is paramount.
People are entitled to their opinions the same way they are entitled to their thoughts and opinions that need to be voiced.
Your opinion can be different from that of others and sometimes may be similar. Not everyone will accept your opinion and you cannot force your opinion on people.
When you understand this concept, then it will be a lot easier to listen to others and hear what they have to say.
People’s opinions matter as much as yours matters. Don’t impose your opinion on them, but rather, listen to them.
2. Be Open Minded To learning From Others
Another step that can help you to listen to others is open-mindedness. No man is a fountain of knowledge, you cannot know it all.
Yes, you think you have a brilliant idea? Superb! Now, let’s take a look at it from others’ angles. Don’t you think they would also think their idea is brilliant? Yes, you got it.
A shift in perspective can give you a better understanding of what others are saying. Pretend you are the other person and try to understand where they are coming from.
You can learn from others as much as they can learn from you. So always prepare your mind to learn from others. Being narrow-minded is not healthy.
Open-mindedness will make you willing to listen to others’ opinions and this will birth growth and cordial relationships.
3. Be Patient To Hear Them All Out
Patience is a virtue everyone should have. If you are patient, listening will be a lot easier. Yes, you have a lot to say, he probably has more to say.
But both of you can’t speak at the same time, right? So how do you deal with this? Listening to what he has to say. And how do you listen?
By practicing patience. It may be difficult, but it is achievable. Allow others to say all they have to say without interrupting.
Even when the urge to counter them arises, don’t interrupt. With this, you can effectively listen to others’ opinions.
4. Do Not Be Quick To Speak
Sometimes the urge to speak when others are talking comes on to us with fire. What do you do in this situation? Take a deep breath and relax.
You may be a quick thinker or speaker naturally, but learn to force yourself to slow down. Don’t be quick to speak. Don’t forget that a few seconds of silence doesn’t mean you have to jump right in.
Allow others to say all they have to say. Most times, we are advised to listen more than we speak.
When we do so, then we can have time to think through what we have to say before replying. It may not be immediately.
Do you know that listening to others’ opinions can influence what you say next? Do you also know that listening to others’ opinions shows that you value them?
You don’t necessarily have to agree with their opinion, but listening to what they have to say matters. It can help your decision-making, it can build your relationships. So speak less and listen more.
5. Do Not Be Judgemental
Many are judgemental even before they hear others speak. This attitude is not right and will make you care less about what others have to say.
Everyone’s opinion should be treated with respect. Don’t feel you are more important and others have nothing meaningful to say.
Even when you feel they are not making sense, allow them to speak, before you voice your own opinion.
Don’t let your emotions come in the way. Remember you cannot impose your opinion on others. So listen to others without mentally criticizing what they are saying or guessing what they would say next.
6. Separate People From Their Opinion
If you don’t like someone, it doesn’t mean the person’s ideas are useless. Learn to control your emotions and do away with sentiments when you are in a conversation with others.
Avoid attacking others based on who they are, rather address the points raised. Even if what they say is provocative, keep your emotions in check and watch how you react. Wait till they are done before speaking.
When you want to give your reply, do so calmly and politely. Don’t be rude when speaking even when you don’t like them or their opinions.
When you put sentiments aside and separate who people are from what they say, then you can effectively listen to what they have to say.
7. Be focused
When you are conversing with others, learn to shut out distractions and keep your attention fixed on them. Whether you agree with the points raised or not, it is important to stay focused in a conversation.
Keep your mind clear of what you think about what is being said or what you think about the speaker.
Also, keep your mind clear of your own thoughts on the topic of discussion. Do not think about what your next reply would be, but rather, understand what is being said.
This will help you effectively listen to the points raised by others.
8. Engage In Active Listening
Active listening is very important to be able to understand what others are saying. It is not enough to hear the sounds or be quiet when others speak.
Do you really understand what is being said? Engaging in active listening will help you listen successfully to others’ opinions and be able to give a better response.
So how can you listen actively?
- Face the speaker and maintain eye contact with them: eye contact is important in making face-to-face conversations with people. It allows you to pay undivided attention and give the speaker the urge to go on. Too much eye contact feels intimidating so minimize it. After maintaining eye contact, you can look away for a few seconds, but keep your attention fixed on them.
- Be relaxed: when others speak, try to feel comfortable. This will help you pay better attention to what is being said. When people give their opinion about something you disagree about, do not feel attacked and defensive. It is okay to disagree, that’s why it is called an opinion. So feel relaxed. This will help you listen better to what others have to say.
- Pay attention to nonverbal messages: there are messages not only in spoken words but also in silence, gestures, and mood. Let’s take for instance; you have a friend your mother doesn’t like. Whenever they visit, your mother may not want to say a word so as not to embarrass you or your friend. But from her gestures, you would know she doesn’t want your friend around and it would be wrong to ignore the message. So whenever you are in a conversation with people, also pay attention to body language.
- Ask questions at the right time: when people speak, you might be tempted to ask clarifying questions, but wait till the speaker pauses before you jump in with your questions. When listening to others’ opinions, ask questions when you don’t understand, but do so at the right time.
- Show that you’re listening: another way to listen actively is to show it. Don’t be completely silent or fixed to a position. Nod your head, smile, and make small noises to show you’re understanding. Don’t look down, don’t look at your phone or wristwatch.
9. Be Tolerant; Do not Be Defensive
People cannot always share their views, always remember that. When listening to others, you have to tolerate whatever they are saying. It is not a competition on who is better.
If you always feel provocative in every conversation, then you cannot listen to others’ opinions. You have to go back and learn tolerance.
For you to be tolerant, you should be open-minded, be willing to learn, try to understand where the speaker is coming from, be patient to let him speak without interrupting, and ask questions when you don’t understand.
These are necessary to help you listen to others’ opinions and tolerate them. It goes both ways.
Don’t be defensive when people speak. A different opinion is not an attack on your person. Wait patiently till they are done, then you can voice out your points without imposing on them.
If you are always defensive, you cannot listen to others’ opinions.
10. Identify The Common Grounds In Your Positions
We have already established that people can disagree with your opinions. However, there is always at least a standpoint or element you both will share a similar view on.
Look for that ground, try to view it from their standpoint. Recognizing, accepting, and respecting that fact will do a lot more and will go a long way to helping you listen to their opinions.
Let’s take for instance; you are arguing with someone from a different political party. The common ground here is that you both want the best for the country.
So when you accept this, it will be a lot easier to listen to them without taking offense. You won’t see the other person as your enemy.
Listening to others’ opinions makes you a better communicator. It shows your respect and tolerance for differences.
Remember, listening to others’ positions on something doesn’t mean you have to waiver from yours. Decision-making is yours, but listening to others can make you make better decisions.
You can learn from others’ opinions, but how can you learn without listening?
So listening is an important skill we must develop, and when you do, always give chance for people to err their views.