Are you trying to become a better listener and overall better communicator? Here are 9 things you can practice to become a better listener and ultimately improve your relationships with your friends, family and colleagues.
1. Ask more questions
By asking the other person questions, you achieve 2 things. One, you can get clarity for yourself as a listener to avoid getting confused. The less you are confused about what the other person is saying the more likely you are to pay attention the entire time.
And two, the other person will feel listened to. When someone asks you questions related to what you are telling them, it feels like they are genuinely listening. Because if they weren’t listening they wouldn’t know what to ask. It also helps the other person elaborate and clarify which makes you come off as a great listener!
2. Wait for the other person to stop talking before responding
A key quality of quality listeners is that they let the other person finish talking. Remember, to be a listener you actually have to listen. Try to make sure you don’t cut the other person off to add in your own opinions or give your own take.
You can ask simple questions or give words of reassurance or sympathy while the other person is talking to let them know you’re still engaged. But wait for them to stop talking completely before offering your own opinion/advice.
3. Make eye contact
Eye contact is a very powerful tool that good communicators use often. By making eye contact you’re essentially tuning in with the other person and showing the that they have your full focus and attention. Part of being a good listener is making sure the other person also feels like they’re being listened to.
You don’t have to stare down the other person for long minutes but make frequent eye contact and look down now and then. However try not to look away or at other distractions nearby as it can come off as if you’re not engaged.
4. Use body language
Body language is essential for good communication and it is a very helpful asset to learn when you need to deal with people. Some easy ways you can make sure that your body language is giving the other person a positive signs are as follow:
- Nod your head frequently to show you understand/agree
- Face your body towards them
- Make sure your feet are pointing towards the other person
- Use facial expressions to react to what is being said
5. Repeat back what the other person said
One way listeners confirm to the other person that they have indeed been listening is by repeating back. By repeating what the other person says, you’re basically showing them that you have been paying attention. Don’t repeat what the other person says word for word. Try to repeat back important details they mention like: Time, Place, Person etc.
6. Remember, you’re listening not fixing
A remarkable quality of good listeners is that they know when to listen and when to fix. Sometimes, we tend to think that when someone is talking to us, they want us to find a solution for them. However, many times, people just want to vent and have someone listen. A good listener knows what the speaker is looking for.
If you struggle to understand what the other person wants, do the listening before the fixing. If the other person specifically asks you to help them fix something or offer advice then you can go ahead. And if the other person doesn’t specify what they want, you can simply ask! Such as the following: “Do you want my take on this?” or “Do you want some advice on how to fix it?”
7. Prompt the other person to keep going
A super-easy way to get better at being a listener is by promoting the other person when needed. You can do this by nodding, or using vocal indicators like “mhm”. Asking questions will automatically prompt them. Saying things like “go on”, “tell me more”, “what happened next” are also great prompts that are less specific than most questions.
8. Be empathetic
Sometimes, we just want someone to empathize with us. Especially if we’re having a rant. So if someone is ranting to you, make sure you’re being empathetic throughout the conversation. You can do this a number of ways.
- Use facial expressions and nodding to show you understand
- Validate the other person’s feelings. (example: “That must have been really hard.” or “That sounds very upsetting.”)
- Show sympathy and understanding if you are able to relate. However, DO NOT start talking about your own experiences. Remember you’re listening.
- Voice the other person’s feelings through yourself. (example: “I would have been very angry too.”)
9. Pause for thought when needed
When it IS your turn to speak or give your input, remember, you can pause for thought. Don’t feel rushed to give the right response straight away. By pausing for thought you’re demonstrating that you listened to everything the other person said. And that you’re doing your best to take it all into consideration and think it through before giving your opinion.
Struggle with procrastination? Read our article on 17 ways you can quit procrastination forever!