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How To Become An Effective Listener

December 19, 2022 Paula Gurnett, CCC

Effective communication is one of the keys to success, and when you're good at it, people notice.

Most people think that strengthening communication skills involves developing persuasive speech and conversational skills, but what you may not realize is just how important effective listening can be.

Without an effective listener, none of your conversational skills would matter. This is because your points - no matter how clear - still wouldn't be heard or understood.

Remember that listening is a full 50% of the communication effort so it's worth your time to develop this precious skill, too.

Here are some techniques you can use to build your listening skills:

1. Fight the urge to speak. Sometimes when you're engaged in a heated conversation, you start to concentrate on what you're going to say next. You may even be tempted to open your mouth before the other person is finished. Make the extra effort to keep your lips sealed until they're through talking.

While they're speaking, don't worry about what you're going to say or how you're going to say it. Instead, focus on the words and body language of the other person.

2. Look interested. Your nonverbal communication skills are important while you're listening. If you're looking disinterested and uncaring, the person trying to communicate with you will likely pick up on these subtle hints. They may be flustered or less likely to share their thoughts. Makes sense, right?

Engage with the person talking. Make eye contact and nod your head or smile. Let your conversation partner know that their points are coming across to you.

3. Repeat the highlights. One way to literally tell your conversation partner that they're effectively communicating is to simply restate their points. You can repeat key phrases in an affirming tone. You can even give them a quick summary of what they just said in your own words.

Avoid sharing your opinions when repeating their concepts or ideas. At this point, you simply want to communicate that you've completely understood their meaning.

4. Ask questions. Get curious! Don't be afraid to ask your conversation partner to elaborate on what they're saying. If you need further information, then ask for it. The important thing is that you understand what they're trying to get across.

5. Be patient. It's also important to maintain patience, especially when working with people who may be shy or may not have the ability to communicate very well. If you're not patient, you may end the conversation prematurely or scare off your conversation partner.

6. Follow your partner's lead. Being an effective listener doesn't mean that your only job is to listen. You can certainly add to the conversation, too. At the same time, you don't want to overpower the conversation. Add your input when they ask for it or when they've finished their point.

With practice, your listening skills will develop and it will become more natural. After you've had an important conversation, ask yourself what you remember from the conversation. Write down the details if necessary. Did you allow the other person to talk and share their thoughts with you? When you fight the urge to dominate conversations, you'll be able to truly hear what people have to say!

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