Listening is an important skill that involves a lot more than the actual physical process of hearing. Good listening skills can be critical to success in a career, in relationships, and life itself. You can improve these skills with practice: be present in the conversation, show respect to the speaker, focus on what he or she is saying, and ask questions to show that you are paying attention.
Remember that listening is an active, rather than passive, process. You must not only hear what a speaker says, but you must understand it and then judge whether the information make sense. To improve your listening skills, try these techniques:
- Listen with respect. Use your tone of voice and choice of words to communicate that you are genuinely trying to understand what the person is saying.
- Provide your full attention on the person speaking; do not be distracted by other sights or sounds. Use eye contact to remain focused. Try to tune out any mannerisms of the speaker that may divert your attention from the content.
- Focus your mind on what is being said. Try adjusting your body position if you find yourself losing concentration. Take notes to keep your mind focused.
- Stay open-minded and try not to predict what will be said.
- Don’t interrupt and don’t plan what your response will be while the speaker is still talking.
- When working on your listening skills, try to determine the main idea, or most important point, of what the speaker is saying.
- Ask questions. If you are not sure you heard something correctly or you didn’t understand, ask for clarification. Some situations don't always allow you to ask questions as the speaker talks, so keep your questions in your mind or write them down so that you can follow up later.
- Provide feedback, either with verbal responses such as "I understand" or "I hear you saying..." or with non-verbal responses such as a nod, frown or smile.
These tips can help you improve your listening skills, which can improve other areas of your life, as well.