When you learn active listening skills, you use both verbal and non-verbal skills and you become a better conversationalist and improve your relationships.
Another listening skill to develop is eye contact. Giving eye contact indicates interest and shows that you are listening. A good listener is a good partner…
Ever try to have a conversation with someone who is reading online or texting? You might as well be talking to the wall…
In addition, an effective listener will unconsciously mirror the other person’s body language. When two people are in sync, this happens naturally.
Pay Attention to Your Partner
A good listener gives the speaker their undivided attention. They seek clarification. That means that you make sure that you understand what the speaker means to say.
An active listener uses cues such as ‘aha’, ‘oh yah’ and ‘ok’ to show the speaker that they are listening.
Use Body Language to Show Interest
Appropriate body language such as leaning forward, eye contact, head nods or shakes, as well as saying, “yes”, “aha”, “okay”, encourages the person to continue sharing.
Be aware of what your body or non-verbal language is saying to the other person.
If you are looking in the other direction while another person is speaking, he may get the message that you are not interested…
Ask Good Questions
In addition to having good active listening skills, a good listener asks questions. Do this to encourage your speaker to elaborate on what they are feeling, thinking or doing in their story.
Open-ended questions allow the speaker to give you a detailed explanation. Here are some examples:
- “What was the upsetting part for you about what he said?”
- “How do you think things will get better?”
- “Why do you feel your Dad was yelling at you today?”
- “How do you feel when he treats you like that?”
- “What does getting fired from your job mean to you?”
Closed-ended questions help you get specific information from someone and do not allow for a detailed answer. You often get a one word answer.
- “Do you enjoy your work?”
- “What is your favorite subject at school?”
- “Did you like the movie?”
- “Would you like spaghetti or chicken for dinner?”
- “Who do you think will get the promotion?”
- “How late did you work last night?”
Leading questions put others on the defensive and do not allow the person to give you any information. They are really statements with a question mark.
These questions judge, deny and give advice without the person being able to answer for themselves. They are fight starting questions!
It’s best to avoid this type of question.
- “Don’t you think he was rude to say that?”
- “Are you really going to wear that dress?”
- “Why didn’t you call me first?”
Paraphrasing and Summarizing
Using paraphrasing and summarizing tells the speaker that you’ve received the information in the way they are trying to convey it.
Share what you think the other person said. This is a technique that allows you to clarify if you’ve heard the message they are trying to convey.
The speaker will either agree that what you’ve heard is correct, or rephrase what they are saying to make it clear for you.
Knowing that you understand what they are saying, also encourages a person to share on a deeper level.
Responding to Feelings
Listen carefully to understand the other person’s feelings.
People often have strong emotions about a situation. When you acknowledging their feelings, it lightens their emotional load and enables them to take a step back, to see everything more clearly.
It is important to match the person’s level of intensity when reflecting their feelings. Examples would be: “You are feeling frustrated with that….” or “You are feeling hurt that he said those words to you.”
Listening skill and communication are closely linked, and to be a good listener takes practice.
Learning to listen, give feedback and use body language effectively, will help you to be a better listener and conversationalist.
And being a better communicator with good active listening skills, makes you a better friend or partner!
Photo courtesy of liquene