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7 Tips to improve active listening skills

Effective listening is the most vital and critical aspect of any communication. it is the sagway to understanding, avoinding conflict and maintainng frutiful conversation.

In my past experience, I came to realize some techniqiues that helped me to enhance my listening skills and become a better communicator. so here are my tips:

  1. Give your undivided attention and maintain eye contact

  2. Be attentive and relaxd

  3. Keep an open mind

  4. Don't interrupt or cut them off

  5. Know when and how to ask questions

  6. Feel for the speaker and give feedback

  7. Pay attention to non-verbal cues

Let's dig deeper:

  1. Give your undivided attention and maintain eye contact

How much of a person's divided attention would you expect to get, if you talk to them, while they are studying a computer screen, or gaze out the window? Compared to when you look them in the eye?

Shyness, uncertainty or other emotions, can inhibit eye contact in some people. In some cultures, eye contacts might be considered rude or inappropriate. However, In most Western cultures, eye contact is considered a basic ingredient of effective communication.

Next time you are having a conversation, put aside papers, books, the phone and other distractions, turn your face to them, and look at them, even if they don't look at you.

  • Be attentive and relaxed

You got to give the speaker your full attention, and acknowledge their message. Direct yourself towards them; maintain eye-contact with them; pay attention to what's said; and suppress any distracting thoughts.

Realize what type of distractions are interfering with your attention, such as background activity or noise. In some cases the speaker's accent or speech mannerisms may in itself become distracting, so try not to focus on that. And most importantly, don't allow your own thoughts, feelings, or biases distract you.

  • Keep an open mind

How many times have we had a conversation with another person, and thought to ourselves; "Well, that was a stupid!.” ?

while It is okay to feel alarmed, if the speaker said something alarming, however, you need to listen without judging. As soon as you indulge in judgmental bemusement, you've compromised your effectiveness as a listener.

We need to realize that everyone uses a certain way/language to represent the thoughts and feelings inside their brain. Since you don't know what those thoughts and feelings are, therefore, all you can do is listen to find out.

Bottom line, you need to listen without jumping to conclusions and no interruption to finish their sentences.

  • Don't interrupt or cut them off

Growing up, i was taught that it's rude to interrupt. Same for most of my generation, i beleive. I'm not sure that this message is getting across anymore. Unfortunately, with the call for modernization, the relying on media we watch loud, aggressive, in-your-face behaviour being condoned; even encouraged. just watch it on most talk shows and reality shows.

What we need to understand is that we all think and speak at different rates. Some of us are slower than others. So, if you are a quick thinker and an agile talker, you may feel agitated to jump into the conversation. Therefore, the burden should be on you to relax your pace for the slower communicator.

  • Know when and how to ask questions

It is very normal that we will have questions for the speaker, especially if some points were not clear to us. But rather than interrupting them, wait until the speaker pauses, before you ask. Then you can say: "Back up a second. I didn't understand what you just said about…" or” can you clarify the point you just said a second ago… “

One way to demonstrate good listening is by asking questions relating to what they said to ensure understanding. Another way is to summarise the conversation to ensure your understanding of what the speaker has said.

  • Feel for the speaker and give feedback

For better understanding and effective listening, it is essential to feel the position of the speaker and where they are coming from, and allow yourself to feel what it is like to be in their place at that moment.

Not an easy thing to do for sure. It requires effort, concentration and energy. But it puts you in a very giving, caring and generous position and would definitely facilitate better communications.

If the speaker's feelings are unclear, rephrase the message as you understood it, to ensure you both are on the same page. If you feel that you are fully comprehending, then you may just nod and show your understanding through appropriate facial expressions and acknowledgment via approving wordings.

  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues

Good listeners actively endeavour to understand what others are really trying to say, regardless of how unclear the messages might be. Listening involves not only the effort to decode verbal messages, but also to interpret non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and physical posture.

We learn a lot about each other's feelings and emotions, without saying a word, from the expression around the eyes, the set of the mouth, the slope of the shoulders. In an encounter with another person, we can detect enthusiasm, boredom, or irritation very quickly. If we incorporate the expressions with the words said, knowing that words only convey a fraction of the message, that would bring our understanding to a farther level.

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