I was typed as an INTJ when I took my first MBTI test at age 18. Now that I'm 32, I have somehow turned into an INFJ. Below are some points I have learnt the hard way during my transition. Sharing them now in case it could be useful to someone here:
How to Be a Good Listener - wikiHow
Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf. - Native American Proverb
Listening is an essential part of communicatiom, and it is different from hearing. Being a good and patient listener helps you not only solve many problems at work or home, but also to see the world through the eyes of others, thereby opening your understanding and enhancing your capacity for empathy. Besides which, you learn a lot from listening. As deceptively simple as listening to and acknowledging other people may seem, doing it well, particularly when disagreements arise, takes sincere effort and lots of practice.
Place yourself in the other person's shoes. It is often too easy to wonder about how what the other person is telling you is impacting you. Active listening is not about inward thinking. Instead, you must draw away from the temptation to do this by looking at the problems from the other person's perspective and actively trying to see his or her point of view. It is not a good idea to consider yourself to be smarter than the speaker and assume that if you would have been in his or her shoes, you would have seen your way through the problem much faster.
Create a conducive physical and mental space. Remove all distractions. Give the speaker 100% of your attention. Turn off cell phones It may be easiest to arrange to talk somewhere that distractions will not occur. Quiet your mind and open yourself to whatever the person might have to say.
Follow and encourage the speaker with body language. Nodding your head will indicate you hear what the speaker is saying, and will encourage them to continue. Adopting body postures, positions and movements that are similar to the speaker (called mirroring) will allow the speaker to relax and open up more.
Do not interrupt with what you feel or think about the topic being discussed. Wait for another person to ask your opinion before interrupting the flow of discussion. Active listening requires the listener to shelve his or her own opinions temporarily, and await appropriate breaks in the conversation for summarizing. Abstain from giving direct advice. Instead, let him or her talk the situation out and find his or her own way. Besides, if he or she takes your advice and something goes wrong, he or she will be likely to blame you (whether he or she tells you or not).
Ask meaningful and empowering questions. Do not seek to probe or make the other person defensive. Rather, aim to use questions as a means by which the speaker can begin to reach his or her own conclusions about the concerns or issues being raised. Once you have shown empathetic listening, it is time to move into empowering listening by re-framing the questions that you ask the speaker. For example: "You didn't enjoy having to take the blame. But I cannot understand why you feel blamed rather than merely being asked not to do something that way." Wording the question in this manner presents the speaker with a need to respond directly to your lack of grasping something. In the process of doing so, the speaker should begin to move from a more emotional response to a more constructive response.
Wait for the person to open up. In the process of encouraging a constructive response, an active listener must continue to be patient and let the speaker acquire his or her full flow of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Keep yourself in his or her shoes and try to estimate why he or she is in such a situation.
Use Body Language|body gestures and have a pleasant facial expression to express your interest. Active listening involves the entire body and face--both yours and that of the speaker:
Be patient and respect pauses. Do not jump to speak up after the speaker has come to his or her own conclusions or resolutions and there is a pause. It is possible that more is yet to be said by the speaker. Let the speaker be the first to break this silence. You can always come back with your solutions or suggestions next time you talk, or the speaker may ask you to clarify your thoughts or offer more opinions at the time. Listening is about understanding another person, not about making suggestions (unless asked).
- Your expression: Look interested and meet the gaze of your speaker from time to time. Do not overwhelm the speaker by staring intently, but do reflect friendliness and openness to what you are listening to.
- Read between the lines: Always be alert for things that have been left unsaid or for cues that can help you gauge the speaker's true feelings. Watch the facial and body expressions of the speaker to try to gather all information you can, not just from the words. Imagine what kind of state of mind would have made you acquire such expressions, body language, and volume.
- Speak at approximately the same energy level as the other person. This way, he or she will know that the message is getting through and that there is no need to repeat.
Try to reassure the speaker that all is well. Whatever the conclusion of the conversation, let the speaker know that you have been happy to listen and to be a sounding board. Make it clear that you are open to further discussion if need be, but that you will not pressure him or her at all. In addition, reassure the speaker of your intention to keep the discussion confidential. Offer to assist with any solutions if you have the ability, time, and expertise. Do not build up false hopes, however. If the only resource you can provide is to continue to be an active listener, make that very clear; in and of itself, this is a very valuable help to any person.
Accept that everyone has a unique thought process and ways to express himself/herself. Too often we jump to conclusions before others finish talking because we place information we hear into our own thought process. Try not to do that. Instead, look for fine differences if it sounds like the speaker may be agreeing with you, and look for areas he or she might indicate agreement if it sounds like an objection. Understand that you do not need 100% agreement to reach the same decision.
Just because someone is speaking to you, do not presume that they are asking you for your input! All too often we think the other person really wants to know what we think about what they are saying…wrong! Wait, let the speaker ask you for your opinion, thoughts or ideas. Otherwise, you may become the speaker but you will not have a “listener” in the audience! This is a fun exercise. You may be surprised at how many people will not ask you for your input. And all these years that you have simply “chimed in” with your input, you thought they actually wanted it.
Realize that most information is not remembered because we are thinking of our response to the speaker and therefore missed what was said. Resist the urge to formulate your responses. That is active thinking, not listening. If need be, take notes that will trigger your response should you have opportunity later to share it.