How to Practice and Improve Your Active Listening Skills

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Great communication skills are one of the most sought after skills required by companies. But when we talk about communication skills we often miss the most important communication skill of all, active listening.

Image shows a girl listening carefully. Article is about improving your active listening skills.

Here are a few ways you can practice and improve your active listening skills.


Listen with the Intent of Understanding Instead of Responding


In every discussion, our main goal is to put our point across. We go to a meeting with an agenda in mind and a talk track to follow. The moment the other person starts speaking, we start finding loopholes in their suggestions and ideas to respond and shoot them down as soon as possible or we cannot wait for them to stop speaking so we can start talking about our own amazing ideas. We also often interrupt the other person before they have finished sharing their points. We also keep on talking without a pause or giving a chance for them to speak.


All of these are bad habits when it comes to active listening. When you start a conversation, always make sure that your main intention is to listen closely, understand, and then respond.


Have an Open Mind


Don't get into the conversation with an opinion already made in your mind. Start with an open mind and allow the speaker to finish their sentences before asking questions. Try to avoid giving counter arguments while the other person is still speaking. Be patient and avoid interrupting the speaker or changing the subject in the middle of the conversation.


Pay Attention to the Speaker's Body Language


Look for nonverbal cues, facial expressions, tone of the voice, posture, gestures, these are all important clues that can help you ask the right questions. Is there a hidden meaning behind this conversation? Is the speaker comfortable in sharing their opinions with you? Their body language can give you subtle hints on where the conversation is going.


Pay Attention to Your Own Body Language


Are you smiling to show them that you are approachable and trustworthy? Are you on your phone or multi-tasking while they are talking to you to indicate that you couldn't care less about what they have to say? Are you nodding to indicate that you are following what they are saying? Are you leaning in to show your interest in the conversation?


Pay close attention to your body language and posture, smile, nod, make eye contact, show your curiosity about the topic being discussed through your facial expressions, make small comments in between to let them know that you are interested in the conversation. Have an open posture, show that you are engaged in the conversation, and listening intently.


Ask Clarifying Questions


If you don't follow a point, don't ignore it. Ask clarifying questions to understand where they are coming from. Encourage them to continue the conversation by asking open-ended questions. Ask for more information, if needed, to understand the situation. Paraphrase and confirm that you are able to understand their point of view. This shows that you paid attention to what was being said and are interested in talking more about it as you are curious about the subject or the outcome of the discussion.


Share Honest Feedback


Be honest about your opinions, share your feedback with respect, give proper reasoning for your decisions. Let them know you understand their perspective. Acknowledge their opinions and be respectful while sharing your thoughts.


Practice active listening on a regular basis to get better at it. Observe other people who are good listeners. Always make sure to treat the other person like you would want yourself to be treated.


Happy growing!


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