I highly recommend Dorothy Leeds book, The 7 Powers of Questions. I've based the following 10 questions from a quiz in her book. Give a simple True or False to each question.
1. Sometimes, I get impatient when listening to others and finish their sentences for them.
2. I make clear eye contact with the person to whom I am listening.
3. Sometimes, people tell me that I am not listening to them.
4. When listening, I spend more time trying to see the other person's perspective than I do thinking of what to say next.
5. When I can't give my full attention, I let the other person know.
6. I think it's appropriate to interrupt whenever I need clarification.
7. How well I listen depends on the person speaking.
8. I can listen and multitask at the same time.
9. I never need to take notes, as I remember conversations quite well.
10. When I meet someone and I hear their name, I generally remember it.
How'd you do?
A bit of comment about each one...
1. Any time that you finish someone's sentence for them, you're making an assumption. That can be dangerous. Some people use this method as a segue for themselves to talk again. Personally, I do this when I think a person is struggling for a word - I try to supply what I think works best for where I thought the conversation was going. But it can be offensive and frankly, it's an assumption on my part. I think it's best not done unless asked.
2. I make an effort to do this, but for some people, it's distracting for them to make clear eye contact, so they look aside. My former platoon sergeant in the Army did this all the time. He never looked you in the eye when in conversation. It turned a lot of people off and they didn't trust him, for that (and other reasons), but it does give that impression.
3. We can get defensive when we're told that we're not listening. If this is said to you, take it for what it is and double your effort to remain silent and let the other person speak fully. If you want to say this to someone, be careful - because they'll likely jump on you if you interrupt them in any way. Might be best to write an email later.
4. Seeing the perspective of someone else is sometimes hard because their experience doesn't always fit neatly into how we see the world. Ask the person for help to see it from their side if you're struggling. They'll generally be quick to help you.
5. Ever tell someone, "I'd like to give you my full attention, but now isn't the best time for me?" It can feel rude, but it's better than missing what they say. Especially when they ask you about it later.
6. You have to be careful with interruptions. If it has to be done to get clarification, best to make it very brief and not use the opportunity to launch into your own speech. You'll know that you're doing this right when you find that you're asking a one-sentence question and then waiting for the response.
7. Of course, this is true for everyone. I listen to my wife, Tamara, much more intently than I listen to the checkout guy in Best Buy. But remember that we're always leaving an impression, so it's best to make the best effort for the circumstances.
8. I have yet to meet the person who listens well while multitasking. There are times when it's unavoidable, but either the task or the listening will suffer.
9. I also have yet to meet the person with a photographic memory. Conversations don't always need note-taking, but they do require some humility if we remember it wrong. Better to look for the intent of what was spoken than what we remember to actually have been said.
10. There are people who really have a tough time with faces and names. Heard of face blindness? I think some folks probably have a true "name blindness" as well. But that said, people are flattered when we remember their name. Doing so will improve our ability to have good relationships.