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Active listening: improve your relationships at work and in life through proper listening

1. Put your own worries aside. You can’t focus on someone else if you’re also thinking about your problems, to-do list, or concerns. This leads to

2. Allow yourself plenty of time. If you have to rush out to a meeting, you want to go at a faster pace that suits you, not the person you’re listening to.

3. Talk less than you listen. We have two ears and one mouth, so keep your communication in equal proportion.

4. Use eye contact. It’s hard for someone to continue talking to someone who isn’t looking at them.

5. Show some non-verbal behavior. Make use of head nods and aha, etc. All of this encourages the other person to say more. But don’t use them ad hoc when you’re not really listening. It devalues ‚Äč‚Äčthem.

6. Show report. When you really listen and care about the other person, your body language will be congruent. There is a coincidence of posture, tone of voice, etc. You can help by leaning forward in your chair or tilting your head to one side.

7. Summarize what the person has said. So they know you’ve heard them. This can be a good way to move the person forward. This reflects the content.

8. Mirror the feeling back. Do you have the feeling that the person is sad, angry, etc.? let them know. “Do you sound a little sad to me?”

9. Don’t pretend. If your attention has wandered, be honest. Ask the person to repeat back what she has said, instead of guessing. His honesty will be appreciated.

10. Be patient. Sometimes people will be confused or wordy. You can help them tell their story, but don’t rush them at a pace that is too fast for them.

11. Avoid “Me too” comments. If you pay attention to the other person and want to help them, avoid talking about how it affects you. To think! Will this help the other person? If not, leave it for another time. You risk hijacking the conversation.

12. Don’t get defensive. If you are being given feedback, listen to what the person is saying. Do not interrupt with reasons until you are very clear about what the person is saying. They may have some useful feedback that you won’t be able to see if you interrupt their stream.

13. Don’t formulate a response until the other person has finished speaking. You will miss some of the things they say.

14. If there is a silence, do not rush to fill it. Wait twice as long as is comfortable for you. Give the other person time to think.

15. Put yourself in their shoes. Do not criticize or give advice, do not rush to fix it. See the problem from their perspective.

16. Be aware of your prejudices. Are there certain words (vulgar language) or people (background) that “get under your skin”? Think about what you can do to be less critical. Perhaps you could say that for the next 20 minutes you will focus on them and let, for example, their views on immigrants wash over you.

17. If you are listening to someone on the phone, you need to work even harder to demonstrate active listening skills. Make sure you are not typing, turning the pages of a magazine, shuffling papers, etc. All these things show that you are only half listening.

18. Eliminate external distractions. If you are somewhere hot, cold, noisy, or uncomfortable, look to move to a different place. You cannot concentrate if you are in a situation that demands a lot of attention.

19. Seek feedback on your own performance. You can improve your skills in this area by receiving feedback from other people. Ask people to tell you if they felt heard. Look for ways to improve. It will not only be useful with that person next time, but also when you are actively listening to other people.

20. Pay attention to other people’s listening skills. Notice how other people make you feel heard and those who don’t. It will help you choose how you can develop further.

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