The most effective communicators are those who listen well. Unfortunately, effective listening is often the area most ignored in the majority of conversations. Here are a few tips on how to listen more effectively to improve your ability to better communicate:
- Be attentive: Paying attention to what is being said requires the listener to face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Practice blocking out distractions like movement, other noises, your own thoughts and/or habits of the speaker. By looking at and observing the speaker, not only will the speaker feel "attended" to, but you will also learn more about what is really important to that person.
- Refrain from jumping to conclusions: Keep your tone sincere and non-judgmental. Think only about what the other person is saying and don’t assume you know where the conversation is going. Be cautious about focusing not on what you are going to say next, but rather how to respond to what the speaker is actually saying.
- Use questions and reflections: Wait for the speaker to pause before inserting yourself into the conversation. Confirm you understand what is being expressed without redirecting the conversation and ask questions for clarification. Empathy is often an effective verbal response, which can be as easy as reflecting the speaker’s emotions. Also engage with corresponding non-verbal responses, such as well-timed head nods and a smile or a furrowed brow.
Being a great listener takes patience and practice, but is foundational to being an effective communicator. Happy practicing!