How to Improve Your Listening Skills?
Effective listening skills mean being able to display interest in the topic discussed and being able to understand the information provided by the speaker. In today’s society, the ability to communicate effectively is becoming increasingly important. Although the ability to speak effectively is a highly sought-after skill, developing effective listening skills is often not regarded in the same respect.
In fact, listening is just as important as speaking. Being a good listener helps solve problems, resolve conflicts, and improve relationships. In the workplace, effective listening contributes to fewer errors, less wasted time, and improved accuracy. Effective listening builds friendships and careers.
Five ways to improve your listening skills
1. Face the speaker and give them your attention
It is difficult to talk to someone who is constantly looking around. Make sure to face the speaker, maintain eye contact, and give him/her your undivided attention. In Western cultures, eye contact is necessary for effective communication. Although shyness, uncertainty, or cultural taboos may inhibit eye contact, try your best to make sure the speaker knows that they have your full attention.
2. Keep an open mind
Do not judge or mentally criticize what the speaker is telling you. If the speaker says something that you do not agree with, you are free to clarify with the speaker. Never exhibit judgmental behavior, as it compromises your effectiveness as a listener.
Let the speaker finish what they are saying and don’t be a sentence-grabber. Interrupting the speaker or prohibiting them from finishing what they are saying can indicate to the speaker that you are not respectful of them. Often, finishing or interrupting the speaker mid-sentence interrupts their train of thought and can easily destroy a productive conversation.
3. Active listening
Active listening refers to listening “actively” rather than passively. Active listening shows the speaker that you are interested and is an important business communication skill.
Active listening techniques:
- Paraphrasing to show understanding
- Nonverbal cues (nodding, eye contact, etc.)
- Verbal affirmations (“I understand,” “I know,” “Thank you,” etc.)
- Demonstrating concern and establishing rapport
4. Ask relevant questions to ensure understanding
Asking relevant questions to ensure understanding indicates to the speaker that you have been listening. It is important, however, to ask relevant questions and not questions that can lead the conversation off in a completely new direction. If you notice that the question you have asked is leading the conversation to a direction unanticipated by the speaker, make sure you take responsibility for getting the conversation back on track.
Create a mental model of the information, whether it be a picture or an arrangement of abstract concepts. Listen to keywords and phrases and do not rehearse what you are going to say after the speaker is done talking. Think about what the other person is saying and not what you should respond with. It is difficult to think of what you are going to say while also listening to the speaker. Be attentive and relaxed – don’t get distracted by your own thoughts and feelings.
The Importance of Listening
Effective listening is a skill that is frequently undermined in our society. Good communication skills require both effective speaking and listening. By being an attentive listener, a better understanding of things happening around you and increased productivity can be attained.
Make sure to:
- Maintain eye contact and face the speaker to give him/her your attention
- Not to be judgmental and keep an open mind
- Not to be a sentence-grabber and interrupt the speaker
- Actively listen and employ active listening techniques
- Think about what the other person is saying and not what you should respond with.
Other soft-skills resources
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to listening skills. To learn more and help advance your career, we recommend the following resources: