Listening is often described as an art because being a good listener involves more than just hearing what someone has to say. Your body language as well as how you react can all send signals to the speaker about whether you are actually listening or simply allowing him to talk. Being a good listener can help improve communication as well as build trust. With a little awareness and some practice anyone can develop and demonstrate good listening skills.
- Skill level:
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Keep quiet until the other person is finished with her story or thought. Interrupting suggests to the other person that you are not really hearing what she has to say.
Make eye contact while someone else is speaking. Even if you feel you can effectively multi-task and listen at the same time, the speaker may not feel he has your full attention. Stop what you are doing and focus on him as much as possible. If you must be doing something else while he is speaking, clear it with him first and be sure to respond specifically to what he is saying periodically, so he knows you are really listening.
Give the speaker both verbal and nonverbal cues to show you are paying attention. Agreeing or empathising with her (briefly) at different points while she is speaking shows you are listening. Nodding your head, smiling or leaning forward while maintaining eye contact are all encouraging nonverbal behaviours. Try to avoid any closed body language such as folding your arms or looking sceptical.
Be empathetic, but keep the conversation centred around the speaker. Changing the subject or bringing every conversation back to you is counter-effective for good listening. Paraphrase what the speaker has said and add your advice or impression, but make sure that the conversation leads back to him.
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