People tend to pay a lot of attention to their or others’ ability to speak. A person who can speak well, after all, appears more professional, more influential, and more desirable. On the other hand, people tend to ignore their own ability to listen but feel distraught towards those who don’t listen well. Listening is not as passive an action as you might have originally thought. There is more to listening than just knowing the words that have been said. You have to understand and construct meaning from the messages you receive as well as create a useful response. With a good listening skill, you’ll be able to strengthen your relationships, improve your empathy, and increase your charisma. Here are seven ways you can improve your listening skills.

  1. Completely be in the moment

If you have a lot of things to do, chances are, you’ll be thinking of the things you’d rather be doing while someone is talking to you. Although you change your facial expression as they speak, it’s still quite easy to tell if someone is really listening or not. This is very annoying and disrespectful towards the speaker. Just let them know that you still have something to do and that you’d let them know once you’re done doing those things so you can offer them your full attention. Be completely in the moment and don’t let your mind wander somewhere else when you’re listening.

  1. Maintain eye contact

Eye contact is very hard to achieve at first but once you get the hang of it, it can improve your conversations in ways you may not have originally known. For one, maintaining eye contact lets you connect to the speaker and it keeps you involved in the conversation. This will keep you focused on the conversation at hand and keep your mind from wandering such that active listening becomes unconsciously easier.

  1. Practice

Just like any other skill, listening needs practice. Choose one person each day to completely listen to, not just hear, in order to enhance your listening skill. Make sure you understood each word and that you’ve noted what the speaker said as well as what you’ve said. Observe vocal, verbal, and visual clues and interpret them well. Once you get used to active listening, you can do the same to other acquaintances until doing so to a lot of other people becomes easy.

  1. Don’t interrupt

When someone else is speaking, don’t interrupt them. Don’t finish their sentences for them and definitely do not talk over them. Just sit still and listen to every word they say. Once they stop talking to hear your reply or to ensure that you’ve understood the message they were trying to convey, that’s when you should speak and offer your ideas.

  1. Be open-minded

Don’t limit yourself to your beliefs and ideas when you listen to other people. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to agree to what they’re saying, but it doesn’t mean you have to be defensive about your viewpoints either. Try to see it as they do and consider all sides of an issue. Discuss but don’t argue. Suggest but don’t accuse.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes

When someone is speaking, especially if they’re sharing a personal problem, try to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what it’s like to have their life, their background, their problems, and imagine that you think the way they do. This allows you to empathize more and therefore makes it easier for you to understand what they’re saying. This will let you know if they just want someone to listen to them or if they want someone to help them.

  1. Remove distractions

Removing any form of distractions while someone is talking will help you be completely at the moment as they speak. Hide away any paper you can doodle on, turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, and forget about work for a moment. It also helps to be in a quiet, comfortable environment so it’s easier to talk and listen. Don’t make the speaker feel as if you’re rushing to end the conversation and don’t make them feel as if you’re bored.

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