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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

In some conversations, we find ourselves feeling so understood. The feeling of being heard is only felt so often. So what sets apart the people listening from the good listeners? 

For one, a good listener is present. It’s common for our minds to drift, thinking about our own responsibilities or even other aspects of the conversation. But so often this drift is taking away from the conversation, and the potential it has. Actively being present in a conversation, and processing the information they are telling us leads to a more natural flow. We all know how good it feels to be asked follow up questions that clearly indicate the opposite person was paying attention, so we should ensure we do that in return. 

Another aspect often overlooked is the body language you present. This has been discussed and studied time and time again, but how often do we consciously check our own bodily responses in our conversations. Small movements and indicators of your focus go a long way. A person can tell when they’re being ignored or when the conversation is getting pushed to the back burner while the other may be spacing out or checking their phone. This serves as your reminder, once again, that your body language does matter. It may not always be the biggest signal you are sending, but it still plays a role. That is a fact you cannot deny. 

My favorite tool when being an active listener that tends to be underutilized is our humanity. Our empathy and ability to understand each other is uniquely human. It is a portion of our minds that we all have an individual perspective on. Our experiences have given us heaps of knowledge in many emotional categories. We have experience with being sad, happy, excited, jealous, and so many more. We have all experienced them to varying degrees. Remind yourself of that experience. You do not always have to tell a story based on your experience to try and make them feel understood. Remind yourself of those emotions and feelings. This is a vital aspect of putting yourself in their shoes because you are using your own familiarity with those feelings and emotions. We connect more to those who can understand us, so attempt to be the one understanding. 

Another underutilized listening skill is focusing on what they actually seek out of your interaction. Are they coming to you for advice? Were they in need of someone to vent to? Maybe they just need to bounce an idea around someone else’s brain for a minute to get some feedback. Pay attention to what they are looking for. Sometimes even asking them straight up will do the trick! You may think you give the best advice, but we don’t always need that from our interactions. There are times when we are just clueing a person in our lives because it may be significant for their understanding of us. There’s many reasons to share, find out why they chose to share with you. 

There’s so much information on how to be an attentive and engaged listener. We just need a reminder every once in a while to refocus and retrain that skill. It isn’t natural for all of us. That is perfectly okay! If you are making an effort, then there’s reason to be proud. Engage, listen, there’s so much to learn from others’ experiences. 

Hi! My name is Astrea Schweikl and I’m a second year Communications major here at UCD!