To actively listen to another individual means to give your full attention to them, especially in times when they are talking to you. Active listening isn’t just important in the workplace but can and should be used throughout many daily interactions. Improving your active listening skills will help reduce misunderstandings and avoid potential conflict. 

Stay Focused

  • What is being communicated? Are you understanding the information they’re sharing? If you find it hard to pay attention take notes or repeat what they’re saying internally. Eliminate distractions that could pull your attention away from the conversion. 

Listen And Look For Nonverbal Cues And Body Language

  • A lot of our communication comes through our body language and emotions. Are arms crossed? Is the person smiling, crying or stern? Even on the phone you can hear by the inflection and tone of voice what they be feeling. 

Don’t Interrupt The Person Talking

  • Let the person talking finish talking before you respond. Interruptions can escalate conflict and frankly, it’s rude. Interruptions can make it seem like what you have to say is more important than what they’re expressing. Even a few seconds of silence or a pause doesn’t mean that you must jump in. 

Avoid Jumping To Conclusions

  • When someone is sharing information with you either good or bad, avoid rushing to judgement and jumping to conclusions. Your boss wanting to speak with you doesn’t mean you did something wrong. A coworker having a grievance doesn’t mean that they’re right and you’re wrong. Hear the other person fully, stay calm and don’t assume you know what they’re going to say. 

Don’t Plan What To Say Next

  • You can’t hear what someone is saying to you and be thinking of what to say at the same time. Our brains are impressive, but not that impressive. Thinking of a response could lead you to jumping to conclusions or totally missing the mark on the conversation. 

Show You’re Listening

  • Nod your head, smile and use noises like “hmm” or “uh huh” to vocalize that you are paying attention and hear what they’re saying. 

Avoid Looking Disinterested

  • This behavior could be interpreted as looking at your phone or watch, tapping your fingers, fidgeting or getting up to leave.

Ask Questions

  • Whether to show interest or gain understanding, questions are a great way to get more information and clarification. Asking open ended questions allows the person to give more information and is another way to actively show you are engaged in the conversation without adding opinion, advise or solution without first asking permission. 

Paraphrase And Summarize

  • Paraphrasing or summarizing what you discussed reports back to the other person that you understood the message that was shared. This can be especially helpful at reducing miscommunication and make sure you know what is being asked of you. It might seem awkward to resay what was just said to you, but it shows you’ve been paying attention, and allows the speaker to correct you if you haven’t understood correctly.

Active listening is a skill like any other. It will take time and practice to improve your skill, but it is an important gift if strengthened.