Whether you want to be a better friend, or colleague improving our listening skills can be very helpful. Here are ten tips from an article I wrote many years ago, but still helpful and relevant today.
1. Leave your own concerns to one side
You can’t focus on somebody else if you are also thinking about your problems, to do list or concerns.
2. Allow yourself sufficient time
If you have to dash off to a meeting, you will want to go at a quicker pace to suit you, not the person who you are listening to.
3. Talk less than you listen
We have two ears and one mouth, so have your communication in the same proportion.
4. Use eye contact
It is hard for someone to continue to talk with someone who is not looking at them.
5. Show some non-verbal behaviour
Make use of nods of the heads and uh-huhs etc. All of these encourage the other person to say more. But don’t just use them ad hoc when you are not really listening. It devalues them.
6. Demonstrate rapport
When you are truly listening and interested in the other person your body language will be congruent. There is a matching of posture, tone of voice etc. You can help by leaning forward in your chair, or by tilting your head to the side.
7. Summarise what the person has said
So they know you have heard them. This can be a good way to move the person forward. This is reflecting back content.
8. Reflect back feeling
Do you get a feeling that the person is sad, angry, etc? Let them know. “You sound a bit sad to me?”
9. Don’t pretend
If your attention has wandered, be honest. Ask the person to repeat what they have said, rather than to guess. Your honesty will be appreciated.
10. Be patient
Sometimes people will be muddled, or verbose. You can help them to tell their story, story, but don’t rush them at a pace too quick for them.
Denise Taylor is a double award winning career coach and Chartered Psychologist with Amazing People, established in 1998. When you are unsure of your career future, need help with job search or seek to improve your presence in an online world, Denise can help. Denise is the author of 7 books including How To Get A Job In A Recession, Now You’ve Been Shortlisted and Fat to Fantastic.