Communication needs to be more than one direction, one person can speak but without being heard there is no real communication. (Unless you settle for talking to yourself). For communication you need a voice, you need to be heard and you need feedback to prove you were heard, as your message was intended. In the middle of communication is listening. There is a great saying about having to close your mouth in order to open your ears. It is true. You can’t hear someone else if you are the only one speaking.
Don’t try to communicate about anything important when one, or both of you, are tired or distracted by something else. People may act as if they are hearing you, pretend to be listening or even think they are listening, but not take in a thing you say. If you want to be heard, pick the best time and place. If you are the one listening and know you are not really able to listen at the time, let people know, ask to talk again when you are able to give them your attention.
While you are listening, don’t assume you understand everything. You won’t want to parrot every detail back to the speaker but it is good to confirm the important things such as dates, times and places. Also, never assume you understand how someone else feels, their emotions. Ask for details, this gives the speaker the chance to explore their feelings while they explain.
Take, and give, time when you are listening. Interrupting is impolite and makes it harder to communicate a full idea or message. It is tempting to interrupt when you think you have heard enough and are ready to give feedback. Sometimes we offer feedback, like free advice, before we have heard all the information, the details and feelings behind the basic information. Also, if you are focused on what you want to say, you can’t be fully focused on hearing what is being said.
The best ways to listen better are to pay attention, ask questions and be sincerely interested in the communication.
Asking questions is a great way to show you are paying attention, have heard what was said (or written), care about what you are hearing and get more information to clearly understand. People enjoy talking about themselves and things which matter to them. You can continue a conversation as long as you like if you keep asking the right questions and listen to the answers.