The female Mayfly has a life span of less than five minutes; therefore, she has a legitimate reason for not having the time to listen, as for the rest of us, not so much.

Just what is it about listening that would appear to be such hard work (female mayflies excused) for so many of us?

I’ve met people who seem utterly disinterested in anything anyone but themselves has to say.  Then there are those who have heads so full of their own ‘stuff’ that there’s no room for concentrating on what others might have to say.  I’ve also known individuals who are just plain unaware – lacking any trace of emotional intelligence – and so why would they know or think to listen?

In your life, as in mine, you may have experience of individuals who are set to ‘transmit’ to such a high degree that if they were a volcano they would be on permanent erupt! Their laver taking the form of a ceaseless flow of words, stories and opinions and, well let’s face it, they aren’t going to win first prize in the listening competition.

I understand that there are countless reasons given and excuses used that prevent people from listening as well as they might and, of course, some are more extreme than others. However, I also know that listening skills can be improved dramatically by practicing a few really basic behaviours and here are three to think about.

1) Allow people to speak without constant and unnecessary interruption.  Bluntly, unless there’s something of value to add or ask … shut up!

2) Keep your mind focused on their words and not your own internal chatter. If you are planning what to say when they’ve stopped speaking then you are not listening to them you are listening to yourself!

3) Look at them. This sounds obvious I know, however, because it’s so easy to become distracted our concentration will go the way of our focus.  If we are looking at who we are listening to it follows that we aren’t looking somewhere else!

If you were to give yourself a current score from 1 to 10 (with 10 being excellent) how would you rate your skills as a listener?  Assuming you haven’t scored a 10/10 why not take some time over the next few weeks to work on improving?

Just choose one simple behaviour and get comfortable with it, then do the same with another.

Resolve to spend five minutes every day working on improving your listening.

And remember five minutes for us is a life time to a little Mayfly!