You’re in a conversation with someone when it suddenly occurs to you that you have absolutely no idea what the other person has said for the last several minutes.
How many times has that happened to you?
Don’t despair. According to the International Listening Association (ILA), people normally retain only half of what we hear immediately after hearing it, and a measley 20 percent as time goes on.
But you can be better than that. Learn how to be a good listener by following these five tips so you can retain more information during a conversation.
How To Improve Your Listening Skills
1. Clear the space (mentally and physically)
Staying focused can be the biggest obstacle to maintaining a conversation and being able to fully listen to another person. An easy way to solve this is to remove physical distractions and pay attention to what the other person is saying.
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If you’re in a meeting, make sure your phone is on silent and tucked away in a pocket. If you know you’re going to have an important discussion with your significant other, put your laptop and phone away and turn off the TV – your show can wait.
2. Pay attention to body language
Between 60-70 percent of all communication is non-verbal. This means that being a good listener isn’t just about paying attention to the words coming out of the other person’s mouth, but also about their body language as they’re speaking.
You can tell a lot based on the person’s arm motions, facial expressions, and other body movements.
What’s also important is your own body language. Maintain direct eye contact so the other person knows you’re paying attention, or try mirroring the other person so they feel more relaxed and at ease. By helping them communicate effectively, you’ll be able to understand more.
3. Don’t interrupt
Listening intently can only happen if the other person is speaking, and a surefire way to stop that is with constant interruptions.
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Although asking pertinent questions is a great way to engage in a conversation, wait for a natural pause in the conversation before asking your first question so you can focus on what they’re saying.
4. Summarize and restate
Often referred to as the emphatic listening technique, this is the best way to demonstrate that you not only are listening to the other person, but that you actually understand what they’re saying.
It also provides the speaker with an opportunity to correct any mistaken assumptions or misconceptions that may have arisen during the course of the conversation.
This strategy also acts as a great set up before you comment or ask a question. By repeating what the person said and encouraging them to go further you can really get at the heart of what they’re saying.
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5. Never argue or dismiss
Although you may not like what the other person is saying, if you want to truly understand their points and be a good listener, you’ll need to keep your mouth shut and your ears open.
Instead of thinking through a response or trying to retort the other person’s points, focus on understanding the message and where the speaker is coming from in order to get the most out of the conversation.
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