When I was in college, I had a professor who would ask us all to write down the words we heard during class on our index cards. Then he’d ask us to read the index cards of the students sitting next to us and see if we could identify the words.
This was an exercise that taught us to be good listeners. When you’re in a conversation with someone, don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Make sure that you’re actively listening.
Listening well is the most important thing you can do to improve communication. The more you listen, the more you’ll learn about the person you’re talking to.
In the same way, listening is the best way to improve your own skills. When you’re learning a new skill, you’ll improve faster if you ask questions and listen for feedback.
Here are some simple tips to get you started:
1. Listen for keywords. Ask yourself, “What is this person saying?”
2. Ask open-ended questions. “How did you arrive at that decision?” “Why do you think that?”
3. Pay attention to body language. Do they lean in? Do they fidget? Do they make eye contact?
4. Don’t interrupt. Don’t interrupt until the person has finished speaking.
5. Be interested. Even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying, show interest in what they’re saying. Ask questions that show you want to understand their point of view.
6. Try not to interrupt them. The first time you interrupt them, apologize and tell them that you were just trying to make sure you understood them.
7. Keep asking questions. “Can you elaborate on that?” “Can you give me an example?”
8. Ask them to explain something to you. “Could you tell me more about that?” “Could you explain that again?”
9. Make notes. Take notes after every conversation you have, even if you don’t plan on using them. Write down everything you remember, whether it’s a word or a phrase.
10. Say thank you. Always end a conversation with a thank you. It’s a great way to let people know you were listening and to encourage them to keep talking.