Listening is a vital skill for anyone to be able to succeed. Whether you are leading a team, a sales person or working with others – listening is the key to successful communication. Here are 10 simple tips to help improve your listening:
1. Non-verbal communication
The use of the correct body language plays a key role in effectively communicating with others. Avoid using a closed body posture such as having your arms crossed, and instead you should focus on the speaker, smile, nod and make eye contact to show you are engaged and willing to listen.
2. Maintain a good level of eye contact
Eye contact is one of the most important non-verbal forms of communication and is a great tool for building and maintaining trustworthy relationships and to show you are listening. Whilst having a conversation, the right amount of eye contact can improve the way you communicate effectively. It is a great way to show you have understood the conversation and both parties leave feeling heard and respected.
3. Focus on what the speaker is saying
When you are involved in a conversation, to really show you are listening it is important to focus directly on the speaker rather than what you are wanting to say. Even if you feel you don’t agree with them, or have something to add, its still a good idea to hear them out and fully understand what they are saying before commenting. Make sure not to interrupt them whilst they are communicating with you, as this shows you are not listening.
4. Show you are listening and understanding
You may be listening to the speaker, but are you showing them you are understanding them? A great way to show you are listening is by relating what they are saying and clarifying your understanding. You can paraphrase and summarize their points so both you and the speaker are clear on what has been discussed.
5. Ask relevant questions
If there comes a point in the conversation where you can ask some open ended questions to gain more information and learn more on the specific topic, you can do this – but make sure it is relevant to what they are saying and try not to go off topic and get distracted.
6. Give your full attention
Clear your thoughts and distractions and focus fully on the speaker by giving them your full attention. Allowing distractions show you are not listening, nor value what they have to say.
7. Paraphrase to confirm understanding
Misunderstandings can often occur even if you heard what the speaker has said. A good way to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication is by paraphrasing to confirm your understanding in case anything has been understood incorrectly and needs a clearer explanation.
8. Wait for the speaker to finish
Wait for the speaker to finish before jumping in with questions, interruptions or comments. Listen to what they are saying and wait for a break in the conversation to then comment or ask any questions you may have that are relevant. To make the interaction positive for both sides, you could even say “I have some thoughts on that, may I share?” so it doesn’t come across as an interruption to the speaker.
9. Engage yourself in conversation
Go all in and show them you are interested in what they have to say. The more engaged you are, the more they will come away feeling like they have been fully heard. Keep the conversation going by relating to the topic and have a positive outlook on their thoughts and opinions.
10. Be patient
Try not to rush the conversation, take your time and keep the conversation flowing so the speaker is able to freely speak without worrying if they are speaking to much/too little etc. Short pauses are fine to have during the interaction as this gives you both time to gather your thoughts to be able to fully understand each other.