…for Improved Listening Skills
1. Remove distractions
This is not the time to multi-task. Turn off and/or put away anything that may be a distraction (cell phones, noisy electronics, whatever you had been working on, etc) before you begin an important conversation.
2. Find a reason to invest in the conversation
Whether you care about the person speaking (and, by extension, whatever is important to them) or the specific subject matter discussed, focusing on why the conversation is important to you will help you maintain your attention throughout.
3. Turn your body towards the person who is speaking
Physically show that you are fully invested in the conversation by turning towards the person speaking (body language experts suggest that, if you are truly interested, you will do this anyway).
4. Be quiet
My teachers always said, “If you are talking, you can’t be listening.” If they had said, “If you are talking, you can’t be actively listening respectfully,” I would have agreed. Wait until the other person has stopped talking before you start.
If you suspect there may be more to the story, a long pause can encourage the other person to continue, but don’t wait too long or the other person may think you weren’t listening at all (instead, try number 7 below).
6. Confirm Understanding
Repeat what they said in different words to ensure that you not only heard their words but also understood their meaning.
7. Ask questions to clarify
Encourage the speaker to elaborate on the subject at hand or a related topic of interest by asking short, open-ended questions.
8. Stop worrying about what you will say next
In listening to the other person’s thoughts in their entirety, you may hear the answer to your next question. If you don’t, it’s okay to take a few seconds to choose your words – you don’t have to rush the conversation.