You listen with your ears…but you can best convey you are listening through your body language! In this fast-paced world, when someone feels heard…when someone feels like you are truly listening to them, it shows you value what they have to say. Following are body language tips to convey you are listening at a high level. These are not meant to be used as ‘techniques’ to make someone think you are listening when you really aren’t. If you practice these gestures with integrity–with the intention of wanting to listen at a higher level, you will discover that others will reveal much more to you, sensing that you care about what they have to say.
1. Position your body to listen: According to body language expert Patti Wood, men and women have different preferences on the way they prefer to communicate in person. She writes in her book, SNAP, that women generally prefer to communicate facing the other person while men prefer to communicate with other men side-by-side. This is not a blanket generalization, but something to keep in mind when listening to women and men.
2. Maintain focused eye contact: Although this is a given, it is worth mentioning, because even when you think you have great eye contact, you are constantly tempted by sights and sounds that cause your eyes to wander or dart away from the person speaking. Even if the disruption is a split second, it can cause the person who is communicating to wonder if you are truly listening. Whenever I am coaching or when I am needing to give someone my full attention and I am in a public place, I face the wall whenever possible. I don’t want the temptation of seeing someone or something behind them to tempt my attention.
3. Give cues that affirm the person: Leaning in conveys the person has your full attention, and that you want to hear more. Couple that with a slight head tilt, and the communicator will sense that you are truly interested in what they are saying. Periodic nods and facial expressions are silent feedback.
4. Refrain from sending mixed signals: Have you every thought about how you may be sending mixed signals with your body language? For instance, are you rubbing your face or neck or fiddling with your jewelry or even your phone? Does your leg shake or bounce? You may be listening, but these signals can convey that you are distracted or even impatient, wanting the other person to stop talking. Aside from the non-verbal cues listed above, try to keep your body still while you are listening.
All of the above will not only convey that you are listening at a higher level, but the result will be that you WILL listen at a higher level, because you will be less distracted.