Eyes wandering out the window, daydreaming about what you’re going to do later, or asking somebody to repeat themselves because you missed what they just said – we’ve all been there. One social habit that most of us can improve upon is listening. When you listen to someone with your full attention, you are showing them respect, understanding, and empathy. Polishing your listening skills isn’t a change that can happen overnight, but there are steps you can take to have more intentional conversations with others.
Hold back your assumptions.
When other people confide in us, it can be easy to make assumptions in your head about their feelings or details surrounding what they’re talking about. Assumptions can be harmful and can make the other person feel like you’re not actually hearing them. The best thing you can do is be curious and ask questions. Open-ended questions are typically more effective than simple yes or no questions, as they give the other person to speak more freely about what’s on their mind. Don’t forget to include positive body language when the other person is speaking, like nodding your head.
Opinions are important and unique to each person, but it’s important that we set our judgment aside until the other person is finished talking. Checking your opinions at the door will create a space where the other person doesn’t feel like you’re judging them throughout the conversation. It can be tempting to jump into the middle of what the other person is saying to give your opinion, but it’s crucial that you let the other person speak until they are finished. It can be difficult to set your personal thoughts aside, but in doing so, you open yourself up to empathy and are able to really listen without interruption.
Summarize comments and give validation.
It can be difficult to keep track of all the components of the conversation, but a helpful tip is to summarize what you’re hearing. For example, “So, it sounds like you’re saying …” Offering a summary helps you better understand what the other person is saying, and it helps create an opportunity for the other person to further explain what they’re talking about or clear up any miscommunication. Another tip is to provide validation. A lot of people struggle to talk about their personal issues, so providing validation can make the other person feel more welcome to do so again in the future. You can try something like this: “I appreciate that you feel like you can talk to me about things like this. I am here for you.”
Leave distractions at the door.
Distractions count as anything that can hinder your ability to listen fully without interruption. A common distraction that keeps us from being engaged in conversations are smartphones. Maybe in the past you’ve tried to talk to someone and they can’t take their eyes off their phone, or each notification “ding” they receive interrupts what you’re trying to tell them. It doesn’t feel good when someone else is consumed by their phone and not by what you’re saying. Serious conversations aren’t typically an appropriate time to multitask screen time and listening.
Improving your listening skills will help expand your horizons and strengthen the relationships in your life. No one can be expected to be the perfect listener, but working to be better and doing your best can go a long way.
Information in this article provided by Psych Central.