⌄ Scroll down to continue ⌄

11 Tips to Help Improve Your Active Listening Skills

⌄ Scroll down to continue ⌄
11 Tips to Help Improve Your Active Listening Skills

Listening is arguably the most important element of interpersonal communication. Our ability to listen well impacts the quality of all of our relationships, and not just at home with our family and friends—it can also affect our relationships and interactions on the job, as well as the effectiveness and quality of our work.

Listening is not something that comes naturally or easily for most of us, however; it is a skill that must be cultivated and practiced.

Active listening means, as its name suggests, means that we make a conscious and concerted effort to fully engage with the speaker. Active listening is the difference between simply hearing, and listening with the intent to truly understand. It is a subtle but important distinction.

Here’re some tips to help improve your active listening skills:

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

1. Give Focused attention

Try to minimize external distractions. Turn down the noise, and put down or step away from what you’re doing if possible. Also, set aside other internal thinking and dialogue. Don’t watch the clock, fidget or go over your to-do list for later.

2. Maintain Eye Contact

Direct eye contact shows your attention and intention to listen. This doesn’t mean stare though. Intense eye contact can be intimidating to some—especially the shy or introverted. Be reasonable, but try not to let your eyes wander to whatever is going on around you.

3. Smile

Facial expressions convey a lot, and a smile is open, inviting, and encouraging.

4. Watch Body Language

Be conscious of your body language. Keep an open posture, a non-aggressive stance, face the speaker(s), lean in rather than away, watch your hands, how you tilt your head and your expressions. (For instance, I tend to cross my arms in front of me because it feels comfortable and wrinkle my brow because I’m concentrating, but this body language can appear defensive or critical, so I need to make an effort to soften a bit.) Pay attention to the speaker’s body language as well. It works both ways.

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

5. Offer Encouragement

Nod occasionally, and offer a judiciously placed ‘Yes,’ “OK”. ‘I understand”, or “Good”. Just be careful not to overdo it or you risk coming across as irritating or rushing. If used sparingly and authentically, encouragement is affirming.

6. Allow Silence

Silence in a conversation can be scary, but a pause allows the speaker to gather their thoughts and for you to digest what is being said.

7. Don’t Interrupt!

It’s disrespectful and distracting.

8. Reflect Back

Restate, but don’t repeat verbatim. Paraphrase what you think the other party is saying with responses such as: “What I’m hearing is…” or “Let me see if I’m following you…” Reflecting back what you’ve heard signals that you’re attempting to understand fully.

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄
⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

9. Clarify

Ask relevant questions to make sure you understand. Make them open-ended questions, if possible. A “yes” or “no” may confirm, but an explanation offers more information. Probe for feelings. Sometimes the emotions behind the words are more important than the words themselves when someone is seeking to be understood.

10. Keep an Open-Mind

Defer judgments, whether agreement or disagreement and don’t make assumptions. Wait until the speaker is finished before formulating opinions. It’s so hard not to think about what you’re going to say next, especially if there’s disagreement, but you miss what is being said if you’re thinking about your own response.

11. Respond Appropriately

Be open and honest in your responses. Share your thoughts, insights and feelings in a clear, but respectful and considerate manner. You can acknowledge the speaker’s concerns and thoughts even if you disagree…especially when you disagree.

The Bottom Line

Active listening is a model for good communication. Remember that listening is not just to gather information and share ideas, but also to gain perspective and understanding. It takes practice to develop active listening skills, and it’s a habit that has to be reinforced.

⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄
⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄

Remind yourself that the goal of conversation is not merely to trade words, but to truly understand what the other party is saying and to be understood in turn.

More Communication Tips

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

More by this author

Royale Scuderi

A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

10 Simple Ways to Find Balance and Get Your Life Back
10 Simple Ways to Find Balance and Get Your Life Back
33 Important Life Lessons to Learn in Life Early
33 Important Life Lessons to Learn in Life Early
How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries
How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries
What Is Emotional Intelligence (And How to Develop It)
What Is Emotional Intelligence (And How to Develop It)
quotes about life
20 Motivational Quotes about Life that Lead to True Happiness

Trending in Communication

1 Why Some People Have a Lack of Empathy (And How to Deal with Them) 2 10 Great Ways to Deal with Selfish People 3 What to Do If You Find Yourself in an Unhappy Marriage 4 How To Be Happy: 16 Scientifically Proven Ways To Stay Happy 5 How To Live a Happy Life No Matter How Old You Are

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Explore the Full Life Framework

Advertising
Advertising