No matter who you’re talking to, listening is the best thing you can do during a conversation. Unfortunately, many people are not effective listeners. Mastering the art of active listening benefits everyone involved by reducing the risk of misunderstanding and making the speaker feel valued and heard. Keep reading for some tips on becoming a better listener!
Show Your Eyes and Face
A healthy amount of eye contact is key to active listening. Not having enough eye contact can make it seem like you don’t care, while too much eye contact can be intimidating. A general rule of thumb is to break eye contact every five seconds, then gradually make eye contact again. Also, avoid looking closed as you listen. Uncross your arms and legs, face the person you’re talking to, and tilt your head gently.
Give Them Proof
As you listen, nod your head, smile, react appropriately, and throw in the occasional “yes” or “uh huh” to show that you are actively listening to what the other person is saying. You can also throw in a few relevant questions throughout the conversation to not only show that you’re listening but also clarify what has been said.
Notice Non-Verbal Cues
You can gain a lot from a conversation simply by watching the other person’s facial expressions, tone, gestures, and body language.
Judgment? Never Heard of Her
Remaining neutral during a conversation creates a safe zone for the other person where they don’t feel blamed or criticized.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Interrupt
As the person talks, you might think of a relevant story or comforting words to share immediately, but we’ll stop you right there! Wait until you can naturally work your piece into the conversation. Interrupting suggests that you think your story is more important. Interruptions can also be distracting and put the conversation off-track.
Don’t think about what you’ll say next. Instead, take it all in and respond authentically. It’s nearly impossible to actively listen and prepare at the same time.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice active listening during every conversation. If you know someone who is a great listener, observe how they act and treat you during a conversation and try to replicate it.