In our last post, we discussed the value of effective listening skills and provided a few tips to help develop them. This week, we continue on this topic and provide more great pointers on how to become a better listener and conversation partner.
Listen Actively- Don’t just passively absorb what your conversational partner is saying. Ask questions, make comments, and otherwise encourage your speaker. If you find a point especially interesting, ask the speaker to elaborate, or to provide examples. Not only will you benefit from the additional information, but you will convey to the speaker that you are invested in the conversation and genuinely interested in what he or she has to say.
Another important aspect of active listening is asking for clarification if something is unclear. All too often, people don’t fully understand a point in a conversation, but allow the speaker to keep talking for fear of being rude. On the contrary, asking for clarification signals that you are doing your part in the conversation and actually trying to absorb the information rather than acting as a simple sounding board. One way to do this is to directly ask the speaker to clarify what he or she has said (e.g. “I’m not sure I fully understood your last point—would you mind going over it one more time?”). Another option is to rephrase what the person has just said in your own words to make sure you understand. For example, you might say, “If I understand correctly, you’re saying that_____, is that right?”
People are often distracted and are preoccupied with the last conversation they had, the next conversation they will have, or the next email that will be arriving on their handheld device. By being an active listener, it is easier to stay focused on the conversation at hand and be more fully involved in the interaction. Remember: the ability to listen actively can improve personal relationships by reducing conflicts, strengthening cooperation, and fostering understanding. The benefits you will gain are worth the taking the time to improve your listening skills and become a better conversational partner.