Want to know how to improve listening skills in English in 9 Easy steps? Read this blog post to get started.
Many legal professionals struggle with how to improve their listening skills in English. As a result it causes them a lot of stress and embarrassment because listening skills are one of the essential communication skills for lawyers and one of the key skills for lawyers.
The message from employers, clients and recruitment agencies is clear: you must be an outstanding communicator if you want to get to the top of the legal profession. Not only do you need to know how to speak English fluently without hesitation you need to know how to improve your listening skills so that you can better understand clients, colleagues and shareholders.
Listening is a vital communication skill for lawyers, yet it is often underrated.
In order to truly understand someone, you need to be able to listen to them attentively and with an open mind.
This is difficult to do in your own language but when you have to do it in English as a second language, it becomes an even bigger challenge.
Listening is a skill that can always be improved and as it is one of the key skills for lawyers it is something you should take the time to work on. Whether you’re trying to understand a colleague better or follow a conversation at a meeting, there are a few basic things you can do to become a better listener.
Focus your attention on the speaker and try to block out other distractions, such as your phone, the computer, other conversations or worrying about what you will say.
Make them and not you the most important person in the conversation.
This means you have to switch your focus and be completely present in the conversation. Stop thinking about how to impress them with your legal knowledge, instead put all of that on pause and direct your brain’s full attention to the act of listening. This is known as active listening.
Active listening involves not just hearing the words that are being said, but also trying to understand the speaker’s meaning and intent. When you’re engaged in active listening, you may want to rephrase what the speaker has said in your own words to make sure you’ve understood correctly.
By shifting your focus from you to them, your hearing becomes more sensitive. You are sending a clear signal to your brain which states this is the important thing. I need to spend my energy on listening. This is what you need to focus on. By doing this your brain will begin to understand that English is an important skill for you as a lawyer. It will then start to learn how to improve listening skills in English. Because your brain is a pattern recognition machine, each time you use this process it will improve your listening skills in English.
Make an effort to really understand what the speaker is trying to say. This sounds easy but it is more difficult than you think. Most people are not listening to the person speaking, they are actually thinking about what they are going to say and wondering when it will be their turn to talk.
As a lawyer you are used to giving your advice and preparing what you are going to say. You like to be in control as it gives you that feeling of safety and being prepared, thinking about your arguments is part of that safety. However, this is a bad strategy when it comes to improving your listening skills.
One of the most important things is to pay close attention. Focus on the speaker and what they’re saying. Does their body language match what they are saying? Do you need more relevant information? It can also be helpful to use mirroring techniques and ask to clarify points that you don’t understand.
Ask questions. If you’re not sure about something that’s been said, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Asking questions will also show the speaker that you’re paying attention and interested in what they’re saying.
By using these techniques you will create a deeper, more meaningful dialogue which will leave clients and colleagues feeling more valued. Lawyers need outstanding communication skills and this is one way to improve them.
Try to withhold judgement. This is easier said than done, especially for lawyers who often think in absolute terms of whether that’s right or that’s wrong.
Listen with an open mind, even if you don’t agree with what the person is saying. When you are making a judgement you are diverting your brain’s attention to a new argument instead of focusing on the person who is in front of you. This means you are only listening with 50% attention. When you are not fully engaged you are more likely to miss hear words or get the wrong meaning of what is being said.
If you can do these things, you’ll find that your listening skills will improve significantly.
Listen to English as much as possible. Make it a Habit. This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many Lawyers don’t do it.
It’s important to make a concerted effort to listen to English regularly. Turn on the radio or TV, listen to podcasts, or watch movies with subtitles. Make it fun, interesting and entertaining because that’s how you activate your brain to learn.
Just 5 minutes a day is all you need to set up a great supporting habit that will help you improve one of the key skills for lawyers that you need to become an outstanding communicator.
Every language has a rhythm. When you are listening to a podcast or the radio, stop trying to understand what is being said and pay attention to rhythm and intonation instead. Paying attention to the rhythm and intonation of spoken English will help your brain better understand what is being said.
When you get lost in a conversation it is easy to get stressed which will cause your brain to be flooded with stress hormones which will then shut down all non-essential activities. As listening in English is not an essential activity you will get stressed, panic and then your listening skills will shut down.
If you have a back up plan this will give you some safety and security. If you feel yourself getting stressed then you instruct your brain to listen for key words and phrases. When you focus only on key words and phrases rather than trying to understand every word, you give yourself time to calm down and get back in control. This will help you to catch the main idea of what is being said.
Another helpful tool for understanding spoken English is taking notes while you listen. This will help you to remember key points and catch anything that you missed the first time around. It can be an aid to good communication skills but it won’t always be possible or appropriate to take notes.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes . Learning any new skill takes time and patience, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t understand everything right away.
Lawyers are incredibly bad at dealing with and accepting failure. They want to be good, they want to succeed.
As high achievers they want to be brilliant at English and they want to succeed immediately. They hate not being able to perform 100% in their job and they worry constantly about whether they have really understood what has been said.
Lawyers often view failure as a disaster instead of a learning experience and growth opportunity.
Prepare for failure. Plan for it and use it as a review so you can learn from it.
Practise regularly with a coach or native speaker friend. This will give you a chance to put into practice what you’ve learned and receive feedback on your progress. By choosing English coaching you will get the opportunity to practise listening and communication skills for lawyers that aren’t available in traditional English classes.
Listening is a skill that we all use on a daily basis, but it is one that many of us struggle with. Whether we are trying to understand a colleague or a client, poor listening skills can lead to misunderstanding and frustration.
If you find yourself routinely struggling to follow conversations, why not consider working with an English coach. If you would like to have a chat with Caryn, you can schedule an appointment here.
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