Focus on the other person, make an eye contact, put away your phone. If you really listen to somebody, you need to give them your full attention, maintain eye contact and be engaged.
To get in to this habit takes practice so don’t be too hard on yourself and keep using these handy tips:
– When starting the conversation resolve not to talk about yourself at all.
– Keep a listening diary – just for a week. Record how many times you listened really well, note what challenges and distracts you and what you think went well.
– Aim to learn at least one new thing about the person who is talking to you.
– It may take time and several attempts before a person is ready to open up.
– Effective listening is about creating trust with the other person. The person sharing shouldn’t feel rushed, or they won’t feel it’s a safe environment.
– If they’ve paused in their response, wait, they may not have finished speaking. It might take them some time to formulate what they are saying, or they may find it difficult to articulate what they’re feeling.
– Through non-judgemental listening, you are allowing the person to relax into the conversation and to use it as a place to reflect or work through difficult emotions.
Use open questions
– Use open questions that need more than a yes or no, and follow up with questions like ‘Tell me more’.
– An open-ended question means not jumping in with your own ideas about how the other person may be feeling.
– Open-ended questions encourage them to talk, the conversation is a safe space that you are holding for them and nothing they say is right or wrong.
– Try asking, ‘how are you feeling today’?
– Avoid asking questions or saying something that closes down the conversation.
Say it back
– Check you’ve understood, but don’t interrupt or offer a solution.
– Repeating something back to somebody is a really good way to reassure them that they have your undivided attention. And you can check to see that you’re hearing what they want you to hear, not putting your own interpretation onto the conversation.
– Don’t be put off by a negative response
– Don’t feel you have to fill a silence.
– Sometimes it can feel intrusive and counter-intuitive to ask someone how they feel.
Once any one pauses just count to three in your head. This will give them time to elaborate further if they need. It will also show that you are also thinking about what they are saying. This will give them confidence to keep talking.