You have two ears and two eyes but only one mouth. You should use them to observe more than you speak.
Nobody likes speaking to someone who doesn’t seem to be listening to what they are saying. When we share a message, regardless what it is, we want to know that the person we are communicating with is paying attention. On the other hand, when we are being spoken to, using efficient active listening communication skills will help the other person feel comfortable and engaged.
Here are the four best skills to approach it:
1. Get rid of all other distractions
To truly improve the quality of your communications you should clear your immediate area of all interferences. Move to a place where you can concentrate. Set out so that you won’t be interrupted.
One of the best active listening communication skills is to give your undivided attention in a profoundly obvious way.
This may mean that you will have put down your phone and pay attention. There is nothing harder than trying to hold a conversation with someone that can’t stop looking at their phone.
Unless you are the head of a country or multinational organization, it can probably wait.
2. Lean in, make eye contact and nod
It will probably take more than just placing your phone on the table to convince the speaker that you are all ears. While the other person is talking be sure to lean in slightly to create an obvious connection. You don’t need to be completely hanging on the edge of your seat but good positive body language will go a long way. This should help both you and the other party be more engaged.
Try to make and maintain eye contact, especially during key points of the conversation. Nod accordingly a few times (studies say three is best) when they say something important. If you do this then it will be much more obvious that you are invested in the conversation.
3. Take mental notes and ask relevant questions
Now that you have heard what the speaker has said what are you going to do about it? One very important active listening skill is keeping track of the things you want to say without interrupting the conversation flow. Instead of barging into the conversation with no regard to the speaker, take mental (or written) notes and ask follow-up questions when appropriate.
Paraphrasing and asking relevant questions will help qualify your understanding and confirm that you were paying attention.
4. Actually listen to the conversation
It is obvious when the person that you are talking to is not listening but is just waiting for their chance to speak. Don’t be that guy. A big part of active listening is carrying your side of the conversation without trying to control it. Asking questions and paraphrasing the main discussion points is a big part of that.
Remember that all conversations are a transfer of information between (at least) two people. You already know the information that is in your head so there is often little benefit in making that the focus of discussion unless it benefits others. There is often much more to learn by observing and listening to others instead. Remember, we have two ears and two eyes but only one mouth.