We all know how frustrating it is to speak to someone who doesn’t appear to be listening. You wonder if you’ve wasted your time or if important details were missed. When you are on the listening end of a conversation, give the speaker the same courtesy you would like from him or her.
Improve your active listening skills by following these tips:
- Avoid distractions. Don’t look at your phone or computer while someone is speaking to you. Many people attempt to multitask while they listen by formulating their responses as they listen. Unfortunately, if you’re focusing on what you will say next, you’re not really listening. Instead, concentrate on the message you are receiving, and it will be clear that you are not just hearing the words—you understand them as well.
- Show signs of acknowledgement. Physical and verbal feedback goes a long way. When the speaker pauses, say “Okay,” “right” or “I see.” Nodding also tells the person that you’re interested and following along. Don’t go overboard with this type of feedback, however. You don’t want to seem like you are rushing the speaker.
- Pay attention to body language. The person’s body language is almost as important as his or her words. Watch the speaker carefully. If the person is facing slightly away from you, he or she may be in a rush or not open to counter-statements. If the person taps on the desk nervously, that may indicate that the topic is a sensitive one that requires your utmost care and tact. On the other hand, if you angle your body away from the speaker, you give the impression that you are not paying full attention to the message. Tapping your foot or glancing at your watch sends the signal that you are in a hurry. Face the speaker directly, and keep unnecessary movements to a minimum.
- Respond. When the speaker is finished, give a verbal affirmation that you understand and know what actions to take. Say something like, “What I’m hearing is …” and rephrase the gist of the message. Always be respectful of opinions, truthful and thorough in your response. Don’t leave the speaker to wonder if you have misinterpreted.
What other active listening strategies do you use?
[Image Source: Travis Isaacs]