A Guide to Active Listening

Being an active listener is a great way of showing those you care about that they are important to you. Verbal and nonverbal cues to show that you are tuned in to the conversation can make all the difference in the world to the person you are speaking to. Active listening is important for not only your friendships and relationships, but also your career and success. Practicing active listening shows your compassion for others as well as makes them feel understood and valued. Especially nowadays, we communicate through screens more often than we communicate face to face. The harmful side effect of this is that we don’t get to participate in mindful listening as often as we used to. Follow this guide to learn the art of active listening and enhance your communication skills.

  1. 1. Be Present

    two women having a discussion

    While listening to other people, how often are you thinking of what you’ll make for dinner later that night? Maybe you’re busy formulating a response in your head and coming up with what you’ll say next. We all do this subconsiously, but active listening requires you to clear your mind of your own thoughts and devote your attention to what the other person is saying. Be present in the conversation by paying attention to their tone, phrases they repeat, and engage with eye contact. Someone's body language and tone of voice can be a great indicator of an unspoken message they are trying to get across. 

  2. 2. Body Langauge 

    Woman with curly hair waving and saying hi to someone through her laptop.

    We've all been in a situation where you are telling a story to someone who has crossed arms and glances at their phone every few minutes. It makes you feel like they aren’t even paying attention to what you’re saying! Uncrossing your arms, aiming your body to face theirs, maintaining eye contact, and keeping off your phone are all important cues to letting the other person know you are paying attention. You can also try nodding your head or raising your eyebrows to show attentivness. Any form of nonverbal communication that acts as an indicator to the other person that you are listening will make them feel validated.

  3. 3. Ask Clarifying Questions

    Two women sit at a table and talk

    Always remember to clear up any points of confusion when listening to someone talk. Asking clarifying questions can be important for both parties. A question will indicate that you’ve heard them and that you're making sure you are both on the same page. It can also help you from jumping to conclusions about how something has made them feel. 

  4. 4. Nonjudgemental Responses

    Colleagues sitting at a table

    Keep your responses and facial expressions judgement free. No one likes the feeling of regretting what they’ve shared because it wasn’t well received. Keep neutral expressions of understanding and respond only if you have advice or comments that would benefit the other person. 

  5. 5. Expectations

    Couple talking with coffee

    One of the biggest things I have learned in the realm of mindful listening is asking the other person what they need from you. A simple, “what do you need to hear from me right now?” goes a long way. Knowing if the other person is looking for a solution to a problem, support from a friend, or the harsh truth will make all the difference in your conversations. Some people like to voice their problems and be greeted with immediate solutions and others just need to vent. Asking what that other person needs will make your conversation more productive and provide them with the support they need. 

Mindful listening is an important life skill that everyone should be practicing. It is the foundation to a successful conversation and successful life! Most of us communicate with people every day and being a good listener is what drives people to trust and find comfort in you. Practice these steps to improve your active listening and become more self-aware when communicating with others. 

All Images Courtesy of the HC Media Library 

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