Give the speaker your undivided attention, respect, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly.
- Look at the speaker directly. Make eye contact if possible.
- Put aside distracting thoughts. Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
- Avoid being distracted by environmental factors. Concentrate of what is being said.
- “Listen” to the speaker’s body language. Observe the non-verbal’s but don’t let it take you away from the conversation.
- Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting. Focus, focus, focus!
Show that you are listening.
Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
- Nod occasionally.
- Smile and use other facial expressions.
- Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting. Don’t cross your arms or roll your eyes.
- Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.
Our life experiences and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said and put aside prejudices. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions for clarification.
- Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is.” and “Sounds like you are saying.” are great ways to echo back.
- Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say.” “Is this what you mean?”
- Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically, just don’t cut off the speaker to do so.
Tip: If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so, and ask for more information: “I may not be understanding you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is ***; is that what you meant?”.
Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
- Allow the speaker to finish no matter how you may feel about what is being said.
- Don’t interrupt with counter arguments. This makes the entire conversation useless and puts those around you on edge and an understanding becomes farther away if not impossible.
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by verbally attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.
- Be candid, open, and honest in your response but remain respectful. Remember that diversity is valuable in all areas of life.
- Assert your opinions respectfully. Keep in mind that everyone has opinions and your’s is no more important that their’s.
- Treat the other person as you would want to be treated in the same situation.