When people mention communication skills, they mostly mean talking because listening seems pretty easy. It is a common misconception. As a matter of fact, listening can be harder than talking, and being a good listener requires certain skills. Here are five tips for becoming a good listener.
Tip #1. Develop empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel or understand what another person is feeling. In other words, you need to be able to place yourself in another person's shoes. Empathy is an essential trait of a good listener because people don't just want to be heard, they need compassion, sympathy, and support.
Tip #2. Never interrupt. Interruptions may be okay during a casual conversation, but when someone really needs to be heard, you should by no means interrupt them. If you have something to say or want to ask a question, wait until the person tells the whole story. Before you give your opinion, make sure the person really finished talking. Maybe they've just paused to collect the thoughts.
Tip #3. Give your full attention to the speaker. No matter whether you are good or bad at multitasking, you need to eliminate all distractions and stay focused on the speaker. If you are not giving your full attention to the speaker, you might miss something important. Remember that words are not the only source of information. Body language, facial expressions and intonation speak volumes, but they won't tell you anything if you are not paying attention.
Tip #4. Use active listening. The term “active listening” (or “reflective listening”) refers to a communication technique which involves giving feedback to the speaker. In other words, you need to respond to the speaker using the following techniques:
- non-verbal response (eye contact, facial expressions, interjections);
- encouraging statements.
While using the active listening technique, don't forget about tip #2: no interruptions. Your responses must be well-timed. If you want to summarize or paraphrase, wait until the speaker makes a pause.
Tip #5. Don't give unsolicited advice. Sometimes people will ask for your advice, sometimes they will just need you to hear them out. So don't rush to offer opinions, options and solutions. Maybe all the speaker needs is your encouragement and support. But if you are explicitly asked to give advice, go for it. If you are not sure whether you need to give advice or not, say, “Have you considered...” or use similar wording.
- How to Improve Your Communication Skills, 6 Ways to Be More Likeable, How to Talk to Strangers, 6 Tips for Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone