Communication is the foundation of our culture, a vital thread that connects us all. Thus, becoming a good communicator is essential in improving all areas of your life, including professional, academic, social, or personal.
So how can you develop better communication skills? It starts with becoming a good listener.
1. Be Present
The most important characteristic of a good listener is being present. This means avoiding distractions and giving the speaker your undivided attention. Pay attention to what they are saying and don’t get distracted by things around you, noises, or your phone.
2. Make Eye Contact
A good listener shows that they are listening and are interested in what the other person has to say. Making eye contact is a good way to do this. Avoid looking around, scrolling through your phone, or doing something else. In some cultures, it can be rude to make eye contact. Even then, it is good to face the speaker.
3. Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues
We never communicate only with our words. Numerous non-verbal cues add to the message a person is trying to send. Non-verbal cues such as posture, tone of voice, pitch, and volume can add dimensions to a person’s words. They can show if the person is excited, bored, enthusiastic, or even honest. To be a good listener, start picking up on the other person’s nonverbal cues to get a better understanding of what they are trying to say.
4. Provide the Speaker with Feedback
Giving the speaker some feedback lets the other person know that you are engaged in the conversation and actively listening. This feedback can be both verbal or nonverbal. You can provide verbal feedback by saying things like “Okay”, “Yes”, or even “Hmm”. Repeating back what you heard is also a way to ensure you understood what the speaker was saying. Nonverbal feedback can include making eye contact, nodding your head, or using appropriate facial expressions.
5. Avoid Interrupting
We all listen faster than we can talk. This makes it tempting to jump in and interrupt someone. However, it’s important to let the other person finish speaking. Be patient, even when you think you know what they are going to say next. Don’t be anxious to voice out your point, even if you think it’s a brilliant point.
6. Ask Questions
If you don’t understand something or want to know more about something that the speaker is saying, you can ask clarifying questions that are on topic. This shows that you are listening, paying attention, and truly interested in what the speaker has to say. Asking questions can help keep the conversation on topic and maintain a flow.
7. Be Respectful
If someone’s viewpoint differs from ours, we tend to judge them. However, a good listener listens to the speaker with an open mind. So, avoid making judgments about what the speaker is saying. Don’t mentally criticize them, even if you don’t agree with what they are saying. They are giving you their perspective and you never know, they may make more sense as you continue to listen.
If you start making judgments, you might miss out on an interesting new perspective. So, even if you don’t like who is speaking or what they’re saying, listen to it anyway!
8. Visualize what the speaker is saying
While the other person is talking, make a mental image of what the speaker is saying. This can help you stay focused and engage all your senses. This helps remove your focus from what you want to say next and helps you organize and retain what the other person is trying to say.
Developing your listening skills can help you in both your personal and professional life. As you use these tips mentioned above and put these into practice, you will find that you are more attentive and that people find you easier to talk to.