Use the following guidelines to improve your listening skills:
1. Avoid distractions: focus and concentrate. In international business, there are many potential external or internal distractions that can divert us from the speaker’s message. Whether you work as an international negotiator or a Spanish translator in Houston, we must work hard at becoming active listeners. Seldom is a message so boring that we can’t find reasons to listen. Listening is an excellent way to learn.
Ask yourself, “How can I benefit from this information?” If you can’t do that, rationalize. ”I’ll listen to improve my listening skills.” ”I’ll watch and listen to see how the speaker reacts to my feedback.” As the Washington D.C. translation worker, Harold Greenberry suggested, “There is no such thing as an uninteresting subject: there are only uninterested people.”
2. Make use of lag time. A major cause of distraction is lag time: the difference between how fast a speaker talks and how fast we can listen. The rate of most speech is between 125 and 180 words a minute. But we can listen at least four times faster. Because our minds have so much free time, our thoughts begin to wander. We begin to miss the speaker’s points.
Use lag time constructively. Trace the line of argument, find the thesis, follow sequences, look for logical relationships, summarize key points, anticipate questions, develop answers, evaluate ideas, watch nonverbal gestures, give feedback. In short, use the skills required for critical and discriminative listening.
3. Allow the speaker time to make the point. As a Dallas translation services company, we sometimes see presenters do too much anticipating. We think we know what the speaker’s going to say, so we quickly formulate rebuttals, counterpoints, or witty rejoinders. Meanwhile, while we’ve been figuring how to “put the speaker in his place,” he’s developed the point differently – and we’ve missed it.
4. Suppress your biases. We all have biases, opinions, and prejudices. While listening, we often allow certain words, ideas, or statements to trigger emotional responses. Try to suppress those biases. Give the speaker a chance to make the point. We may not like what is being said, but we should listen. We may learn something, after all, that may lessen a prejudice or reinforce a conviction.