Many people develop anxiety before they have to speak in public. However, the trick to winning people overlies less with what you say and more with how you hear their words. The right active listening techniques can help you influence others and widen your circle of influence without your saying too many words at all.
These skills can grow your social circle and confidence. Learning how to improve your listening skills can also skyrocket your career as others come to see you as an empathetic leader who hears their concerns.
Are you ready to enhance your communication skills? Here’s how active listening can help you become a better conversationalist.
How to Improve Your Listening Skills?
If you want to learn how to improve your listening skills, your first step is to get mindful. Too often, people listen to respond, which prevents them from fully immersing themselves in what the other person is saying. As a result, you might talk for hours, but the other party still feels unheard.
Take a few moments of mindfulness before initiating a big conversation with your kids, partner, or boss. Practicing boxed breathing or a similar relaxation technique could help you regulate your breathing and focus. Mentally rehearse your approach while considering the following questions:
- What do I hope to achieve from this conversation? Perhaps you want to strengthen your bond, or maybe you have a specific matter to discuss.
- How do I expect the other person to feel? Consider the impact your words will have and use empathy to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you like to receive similar information?
- What reactions might I anticipate? Mindfully exploring how the other person might respond helps you think of appropriate responses in advance so you don’t react in the heat of the moment.
When initiating challenging conversations, use “I” statements to avoid appearing overly accusatory. You can also use these to demonstrate that you are listening to the other person’s response. For example, “Am I correct in saying that you feel…?” The other person can confirm or rephrase what they’ve said to ensure understanding.
The most crucial aspect to remember is to stay present in the conversation and devote your focus to it. It may help to pretend you’re a journalist in an interview, trying to capture the recorded words and the conversation’s overall tenor, mood, and vibe.
Ensure the other person leaves feeling heard. You can summarize the conversation and plan your next meeting if you still have matters to discuss or if you need to take a break. Remember: part of active listening entails emotional regulation. That means not letting your feelings dominate. It’s perfectly acceptable to suggest reconvening another time if things get too heated.
8 Active Listening Techniques to Try
Are you looking for specific exercises to enhance your skills? Here are seven active listening techniques to try. Why not practice with a trusted friend or partner, then transfer these awesome new abilities to weightier conversations?
1. Don’t Judge
Here’s a great exercise for enhancing how other people see controversial issues. Begin by inviting your partner to speak on a topic you disagree with for four minutes. While they talk, you remain silent – no interjections or interruptions, not even an “um-hmm” or “un-uh.” However, you should maintain appropriate eye contact, and nodding is okay.
After four minutes, you may speak. However, your job isn’t to rebut but to summarize. Paraphrase their key points and allow the speaker to confirm or clarify.
2. Tell Me What You See
Do you adore playing Pictionary? This exercise puts a spin on that game with an eye on active listening techniques. Your partner selects a simple picture – you might use a child’s coloring book – and doesn’t share it with their partner. The other person has a pencil and pen.
The drawing partner has five minutes to ask their partner questions about what’s in the picture and attempt to recreate it. Their partner can answer all questions thoroughly and honestly. Switch roles after completing the round.
3. Sandwiches and Hamburgers
Here’s an easy and fun game you can play with a group or the kiddos. It enhances listening skills by seeing how well you can follow specific instructions.
You’ll begin by selecting two different but related items to represent specific actions. For example, you might have everyone raise their right hand when you say “sandwiches” and their left when you say “hamburgers.” Those who miss a cue are eliminated – but the competitive aspect is simply for fun.
4. The Emotion Whisperer
Can you practice active listening techniques alone? Yes, and here’s an activity to try.
Find a distraction-free place and get comfy. Bring to mind the last time you had an encounter with another that evoked strong emotions. Then, ask yourself questions to unearth what triggered those overwhelming feelings.
- What was the environment surrounding you at the time? Can you recall sights, sounds, tastes, or smells that might correlate to a traumatic time in your life?
- Can you pinpoint the part of the conversation where your emotions became unmanageable? What did the other person say or do that created the tidal wave?
- Did the conversation remind you of earlier, more traumatic ones? For example, a partner telling you they need space might be an innocent request but could trigger you if a former partner used those words to mask an affair.
Then, visualize how you could handle the situation differently. Doing a mental rehearsal will help you keep your emotions in check next time.
5. Respecting Pluralism
Here’s an active listening technique that’s similar to withholding judgment. However, it adds a twist. This time, your job is to discern why the other party holds the opinion they do.
Begin by having one partner share their viewpoint on a controversial topic for approximately two minutes. The other party plays the role of reporter. Their job is to ask three targeted “why” questions to further unearth why the individual holds that opinion.
For example, if they assert that humans evolved to eat meat, you might ask why getting nutrients from animals is superior to plant-based sources. The fun thing about this exercise is that you may influence each other’s viewpoints without feeling hostility.
6. A Mile in Their Shoes
Here’s an active listening technique that illustrates how various life experiences influence a person’s view of the world. To begin, you and your partner should spend a few mindful minutes recalling a life event that shaped your worldview.
Then, give each other approximately 10 minutes to relay their experience and how it shaped them. The other party should listen, making eye contact and asking appropriate follow-up questions like, “Is there anything you would do differently today?”
7. Train of Thoughts
Here’s a fun active listening technique that shares much in common with the old “Telephone” game. It’s best played with a group, although you can do it with a partner.
One person begins by talking for one to two minutes on a given topic. The next person then summarizes what the first says and adds to it. Do you want to get playful and creative? Make it a continuing story instead, with each partner contributing the next few lines.
8. Mime It Out
This active listening activity helps you recognize non-verbal cues, which are every bit as vital to understanding as the spoken word.
Each individual in the group receives a topic. Their job is to illustrate how they feel about it, not by changing the words but by how they express themselves. They may use facial expressions, posture, tone of voice, or overall demeanor to relay their emotions.
How to Improve Listening Skills With Active Listening Techniques
It benefits you to learn how to improve your listening skills. Doing so can enhance your relationships and even grow your career. Use the above active listening techniques to improve your communication skills. You’ll find more people gravitate toward you when you mindfully tune in to their experience.
Author – Beth is the Managing Editor and content manager at Body+Mind. She is passionate about writing about fitness, diet, fitness, mental health, and parenting. In her spare time, Beth enjoys trying out new fitness routines and recipes.