When our work involves serving others, it’s important for us to be good listeners and use active listening skills. Being a good listener can be difficult at times. I’ve created a video to accompany this blog post with the ten tips on how to be a better listener, whether at work with our customers, end-users, and colleagues or at home with our spouse, children, and friends.

Here’s the video. The 10 tips are just below the video.

  1. Stop talking. If you want to be known as a great conversationalist, learn to stop talking and let the other person say what’s on his or her mind.
  2. Lose distractions including internal distractions from your mental clutter of things like to-do lists and plans for the weekend and external distractions such as cell phones, computers, and open books.
  3. Focus on what the other person is saying as though there will be a test at the end of the conversation.
  4. Keep your mind open to the possibility of new information. Try not to let your personal beliefs close your mind to new ideas.
  5. Use physical and verbal responses, appropriately timed, to show you’re listening such as nodding your head, raising your eyebrows, saying “uh-huh”, and “oh”. (Make sure they’re authentic. People can spot a fake!)
  6. Let the other person finish what he or she is saying. Resist the temptation to jump in with your response. (My wife has been working with me on this for the entirety of our marriage. I think I’m getting better.)
  7. Ask questions for clarification as needed, but only after letting the other person finish. This is a critical part of active listening.
  8. Repeat back what the other person said. You can say things like, “I want to be sure I understand you, so please let me repeat back what you just said.” Then repeat back what you think was said and say, “Is that correct? Is that the message you wanted to convey?”
  9. Allow breaks in the conversation. Silence or a pause in the conversation does not necessarily mean you have to jump in and speak right away. Sometimes, you’re better off allowing silence while you process what you’ve just heard.
  10. Watch for non-verbals. Be sensitive to non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions.

One of the great paradoxes is that to be known as a great conversationalist, stop talking. When you do speak, ask open-ended questions and let the other person finish their thoughts.

No one ever learned much from talking, but there’s a wealth of information waiting for the patient listener. Learn about the five levels of listening in this blog post.

To become a better listener, enroll now in the Compassionate Geek course How to Be a Better Listener.

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