I recently went on a vacation to the Riviera Maya with my wonderful wife for a much-needed vacation. We stayed at the El Dorado Casitas Royale and would highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy great service, delicious food, and a relaxing atmosphere. We love to go to Mexico because it is usually pretty easy for us to fly there and the prices are very reasonable. My wife and I both took Spanish in high school and I even took a little in college, but that was so long ago we struggle to keep up with some of the conversations. Luckily, almost all of the employees are fluent in English. Every now and then we would attempt to have a conversation in Spanish, but would quickly retreat. I’m glad everyone was patient with us as we tripped over their native language. Also, even though they were proficient with English, accents sometimes made understanding a little difficult. I realized that this was a great opportunity to work on my listening skills, whether I wanted to or not! Here are a few of the things that I focused on during my trip to improve my listening skills.
- Be an active listener. Due to the accents and a lot of background noise from the ocean, swimming pool, and other vacationers, I really had to concentrate on what the speaker was saying. This included watching their body language and anything they may be referencing with their eyes or hands. I didn’t want to miss out on any verbal or visual clues.
- Be a patient listener. I could not start talking before the speaker was finished. I had to wait until the last word was spoken and their side of the conversation was over. Otherwise, I may miss something critical in their message or rudely interrupt them.
- Ask clarifying questions. There were times when I didn’t totally understand the message. Instead of making assumptions that may be wrong, I asked a question or two to get more information or simply let the speaker know I didn’t quite understand what they were saying.
While I realize that not everyone can just pick up and go to a foreign country to improve some of their listening skills, I found it to be a great refresher course for things I’ve learned over the years, but have become lax at doing. I have challenged myself to keep focusing on these three areas of listening and make them part of my every day habits – hopefully this time it sticks.
The reality is you don’t need to travel outside the U.S. to work on communication skills – you just need to decide to do it.