Enhance your listening skills by implementing these seven suggestions.
1. Be Attentive
- Make eye contact while the other person speaks.
- Lean toward the other person, and nod your head occasionally.
- Avoid folding your arms as this signals that you are closed off and might not be listening.
- Watch nonverbal behavior. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and other behaviors can sometimes tell you more than words alone.
- Quiet down your internal dialogue while listening. Avoid daydreaming and stay present and focused on the conversation at hand.
2. Ask open-ended questions
- Encourage the speaker to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings by framing open-ended questions. Open-ended questions require more than a 1- or 2-word answer.
- Examples of open-ended questions include:
- Tell me more about…
- How did…?
- What do you think…?
- Help me understand...
3. Ask probing questions
- Probing questions encourage the speaker to give you additional information or details, signaling that you are listening and thoughtful.
- Use the context of your conversation to focus on “What, How and Why” questions.
- Examples of probing questions:
- What do you like about it...
- How did you decide to...
- Why did you select...
- Avoid closed yes-or-no questions. Those answers tend to shut down the conversation.
4. Request clarification
- Show interest by asking questions to clarify what is said and ensure that the correct message has been received.
- Do not interrupt the speaker; wait until the speaker pauses.
- Helpful ways to request clarification include:
- When you say..., do you mean…?
- Can you please repeat... I did not understand what you said about...?
- Once the other person has finished expressing a thought, try to paraphrase what they said to make sure you understand and to show that you are paying attention.
- Helpful ways to paraphrase include:
- What I hear you saying is…
- It sounds like…
- If I understand you right….
- In other words, what you are saying is...
6. Be attuned to and reflect feelings
- When appropriate, express empathy.
- To experience empathy, try to feel what the speaker is feeling at that moment by putting yourself in the speaker’s place.
- Examples of phrases that express empathy:
- I understand
- That must be really hard for you
- Congratulations on your success
- Bring together the speaker’s key messages.
- Ask what the next steps should be to continue your conversation.