Listening seems like such a simple skill, but there is so much more to listening than just hearing what your communication partner is saying. Studies show that up to 93% of communication is non-verbal. In order to be a good listener, there are several aspects that must be considered.
You need to make eye contact with the person who is speaking to show that you are engaged and focused on what he is saying.
This is the most obvious body part involved in listening. You need to actively hear what the person is saying.
Your mouth should be closed unless you are affirming or encouraging what the speaker is saying. This means you should not interrupt the speaker, but you may say things such as “I understand,” or “What happened next?” This demonstrates that you are following what the person is saying.
What your hands are doing may not seem important, but doing things such as picking at clothing or fidgeting with an object can be distracting to both you and your communication partner.
As with your hands, your feet should not be fidgety.
Your body language demonstrates interest in the speaker. Your body should be facing the speaker. Facing away indicates disinterest or a desire to leave the conversation.
This is typically the part of listening people struggle with most. We are often so busy thinking of that we are going to say next that we aren’t actually listening to what our conversation partner is telling us. Your mind should be processing what the speaker is saying, not thinking of your next response.
You should care about and try to understand what the person is saying. Even if you disagree, it is important to be able to see the speaker’s point of view. Listening does not end when the conversation partner finishes speaking. A good listener should affirm that they understand what has been said before responding.
A good way to do this is to restate or summarize what you think the person said. For example, “So you’re saying that ______ happened and made you feel ______,” or “So ______ happened, and then you _______, is that right?”
“A good listener should affirm that they understand what has been said before responding.”
Once your conversation partner feels understood, then it is time for your response. This is especially important during an argument or when listening to a person’s problem. It may be difficult, but establishing the other person’s point of view before expressing your own can limit misunderstandings and frustration.