H. Hutson & L. Houck
Your listening skills can have a greater impact on your life than you may realize. Active listening is an important life skill. It can affect how well you do your job or the quality of your personal relationships. Being a strong communicator only increases your chances for success. Listening is an essential component of good communication.
Improve your listening:
- Be attentive. Give your undivided attention. Turn your body towards the speaker and do your best to maintain eye contact. Listen to the words being spoken, but also pay attention to what is said through nonverbal communication. Watch for body language and gestures, to fully understand the message. Put aside distracting thoughts, don’t plan out your response while they are talking. If you’re thinking of what you’ll say next, you will likely miss important information being said now.
- Give cues to show you’re listening. An easy way to communicate you’re paying attention is by making frequent eye contact. Be sure to nod and respond when appropriate. Confirm you’re listening by using visual cues through your gestures and body language. This action makes it clear that you’re actively engaged in what the speaker’s saying.
- Respond. Make it clear that you have been actively engaged by, periodically summarizing what has been said. Paraphrasing can be particularly useful when someone is sharing personal feelings with you. This ensures you have a clear understanding of what’s been said. Be sure to ask questions to clarify any points you don’t understand.
- Concentrate and avoid interrupting. The more you practice focusing on what a speaker is saying, the more natural it becomes. To prevent your attention from drifting off, focus on the words in your mind. Allow the speaker enough time to complete their thoughts and avoid cutting them off. . Interrupting is not only rude, but it prevents you from hearing the full message. When the speaker is finished, respond appropriately.
You’ll be surprised at how differently you’ll hear things as an active listener. If you follow these tips, you’ll not only become an active listener, but a better communicator as well.