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Being an Active Listener

Have you ever had a conversation with someone knowing they weren’t truly listening?

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have at work, at home, really in any facet of your life. Of course, anyone can hear and even listen, but active listening takes skill and can help avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Here are 7 ways to be a more active listener.

  1. Stop Interrupting – When someone is interrupted or talked over, it gives the impression that whatever they say isn’t important. If you’re someone who tends to respond quickly, take a breath. Just because there is a pause in the conversation doesn’t mean it’s your turn to jump in. If you do, get back on track by prompting them to continue by saying something like, “so you were saying…”
  2. Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Communication – Is the person speaking to you smiling, are they looking down or away from you, or do they have a certain tone of voice? It’s not just about their words but what they are saying with their body language. And your body language matters too. Show that you’re listening by adjusting your facial expressions to the tone of the conversation and nodding when it’s appropriate.
  3. Make Eye Contact – Keeping eye contact with whoever you’re talking to shows you’re truly paying attention. Think of when you’re trying to hide something from someone. Usually, you avoid making eye contact with them. Therefore, when you’re making consistent eye contact, it shows you’re actively listening. But don’t be creepy and stare a hole through them. You can break eye contact every few seconds.
  4. Ask Questions – All salespeople are taught to ask check-in questions when on a sales call. It shows they are listening and helps to clarify what’s being said. This is a great way to determine if you understand what’s being said during a conversation. Keep them talking by asking open-ended questions so they can elaborate and further explain what they are communicating.
  5. Avoid Pushing Your Opinions – Actively listening does not mean actively imposing your opinion. We’ve all been in conversations that are verbally one-sided. This includes listening to someone who needs to get things off their chest instead of wanting advice in response. Sometimes when people speak with you, saying things out loud is what helps bring them to their own solution.
  6. Respond and Summarize – Repeating what’s said allows you to process it as an active listener. You can say something like, “so, it sounds like you’re saying…” If they ask for your thoughts, be open and honest in how you respond. Depending on the type of conversation you’re having, be respectful in your response or the opinions you give. Put yourself in their shoes and think how you would want someone to respond.
  7. Refrain From Judging – No one wants to be counterargued when they are coming to you for a listening ear. Keep your emotions under control during a conversation where you could become emotional. Instead, focus on listening and don’t assume where the conversation will go until it goes there. Also, don’t think about what you are going to say while someone is talking to you. No matter how good of a listener you are, you can’t listen and prepare simultaneously.

Being an active listener takes effort and concentration. Becoming an active listener leads to better communication skills and can help you develop better relationships in and out of work.

What is the most challenging part of being an active listener? Join the conversation on LinkedIn and check out Coaching Employees Who Are Hard on Themselves.