Listening can be a tough communication skill to master, especially in a loud world. Luckily, the active listening method can help you improve your skills, much like you would practice public speaking or writing.
Active listening creates greater understanding and builds stronger relationships. By practicing it, you can improve both oral communication and interpersonal skills.
[email protected] shares the six active listening skills that you can build to help you master the art of listening.
1. Be Present
Put yourself in a learning mindset instead of coming to a conversation with the goal of sharing your own viewpoints. Let the speaker complete his or her thoughts without interrupting.
Pay attention to your body language. Maintaining eye contact, leaning in, and nodding your head show that the speaker has your full attention. You can also prevent distractions and show that you’re engaged by putting your phone away and closing out of email.
2. Put Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes
Practice putting yourself in the speaker’s place as you listen. When your opinion is different, try to understand instead of offering your perspective. It shows respect, but also lets you take in new information that will help you understand his or her point of view.
3. Check Your Understanding
Find appropriate times during the conversation to confirm that you understand what the speaker is saying. One technique is to paraphrase the speaker’s message and emotion. Try using statements like “It sounds like you’re concerned about…” or “What I’m hearing from you is… Is that correct?” Then, give the speaker the opportunity to clarify misunderstandings.
4. Ask Clarifying Questions
Use open-ended questions to gain a better understanding of anything that’s unclear. Instead of asking the speaker “Did you already try the new process?” try asking “What are your thoughts about the new process?” Open-ended questions – rather than leading questions or those that only require a yes or no answer – help you get more information.
Capture themes of the conversation by putting key ideas into broad statements. In a conversation with a coworker, you might say “You’ve made good points about our meetings. They need to be shorter and follow a more consistent structure.” Summarizing ensures you and the speaker are on the same page about what’s been discussed.
6. Add Input (at the Right Time)
The final step in active listening is sharing your own point of view. Choose carefully when and how to add input. The best time to share your suggestions is after the speaker has come to a stopping point and you understand his or her point of view. That way, you can represent your perspective while also identifying where you share common ground. This step helps you and the speaker work together effectively.