Practice #4: Actively Listening to Your Partners
Active listening is also a way to help you communicate to others that you value what they have to say. People who are good active listeners tend to give non-verbal cues that they are listening. It is not always appropriate to interject with words, but nodding and facial expressions can convey what you cannot and/or should not say with words. It is also important to verbally summarize statements periodically to check your understanding. This is a good time to ask questions for clarification or reflection.
Listening is the key to effective communication with others. Without effective listening, communications break down and lead to confusion or misunderstandings and frustration.
Active listening means fully concentrating on what is being said—verbally and non-verbally—so you understand more than just the words; you understand their meaning.
Here are a few simple practices to improve your active listening skills:
- Minimize external distractions: Put your cell phone away, look away from your laptop or tablet (better yet, put it
away), move to a quieter place with fewer nearby conversations.
- Quiet yourself: Stop fidgeting, playing with your hair, looking at your fingernails, doodling, making
mental to do lists, thinking about evening or weekend plans. Try to let go of any
- Listen with your full attention: Practice not jumping ahead in the conversation to formulate your response to their
ideas. Try not to rehearse what you are going to say in your mind.
- Maintain eye contact with the speaker: When responding, look directly at the person you are talking to. Sometimes, too much
eye contact can make people uncomfortable, so be sure to adjust accordingly.
- Pay attention to the speaker's non-verbal cues and mannerisms: Listen to the tone of voice and pace of speech to understand more about the meaning
and emotion of the subject being discussed.
- Summarize or reflect back what the person has said to you to verify you understood them correctly. Invite them to comment on whether you got
it right or not.
- Ask engaging and relevant questions to clarify what was said or invite the speaker to expand more on a topic of particular
interest to you.
- Speak about yourself, not them: This avoids you making a statement about someone else that might be untrue.
When you're having a face to face conversation with someone, it's okay to check your phone for text messages as long as you do it quickly.
You're correct, that's false. You should be an active listener by minimizing distractions and maintaining eye contact during conversations.
No. Although it might seem to be okay because people do this type of thing often, it isn't a good way to be an active listener.