You may be a great listener; however, if the person talking to you senses you are not closely listening to them and 100% present, it feels frustrating and deflating. Following are six ways that you can demonstrate you are truly listening:
1. Physically put down whatever is in your hands and whatever you are touching. If you are like many people, your phone is often in your hand. Even if you have it silenced, by physically setting it down shows you are giving the other person your full attention. This holds true for other objects such as a cup, a pet, a child, a pen, a fork…and whatever you are touching. If your fingers are on a keyboard (even if they are not typing), whatever is in your hand or you are touching, by putting it to the down or to the side, you are making a statement that you are ready to really listen.
2. Don’t look over your shoulder. Many people are guilty of this if they are working on something and someone comes in to talk to them. You may look over their shoulder or to the side, giving the person half of your attention with your body. Turning towards the other person is a statement that they have your attention. One caveat is how you want to face depending if you are listening to a man or a woman. Studies have shown that men prefer talking side by side, and women prefer front facing conversation. Body language expert and author, Patti Wood describes these preferences in her book, Snap.
3. Be intentional about minimizing distractions. Technology alerts, other people, noises, are common and will commonly disrupt concentration on the other person. Every millisecond your attention breaks away likely feels deflating to the other person. Think about a smart watch alert. It is very difficult for someone to not glance at it when they feel the “alert sensation” on their wrist. When this happens to me, I wonder, “should I repeat myself once their attention returns to me, or did they really catch what I said?” If you do get interrupted with something or someone, it is best when you return your attention back to the other person to apologize and say something such as, “will you repeat that to make sure I got that?”
4. Pause for two seconds before you reply. In her book, The Charisma Myth, author Olivia Fox Cabane describes the “two second rule” of pausing for two seconds after someone is finished speaking before you speak. A client of mine expressed that she admired someone she worked with who commonly did this in conversation. She explained, “when I tell her something, she pauses and looks as if what I told her is sinking in, she slowly makes a facial expression to acknowledge whatever I told her, and only then does she begin speaking.” This also gives you a reprieve from thinking about how you are going to respond while the other person is talking, allowing you to fully concentrate on what they are saying.
5. Verbally acknowledge whatever they have told you. I continue to be surprised at how many people do not acknowledge what others have just shared with them. Instead, they begin sharing their own story or thoughts about the subject. Below is a video that describes this conversation trap. If someone tells you something, it means that they want you to hear it, so by acknowledging it you are not only acknowledging the statement or story, you are also acknowledging its significance.
6. Bring up the subject again at the end of the conversation. One way you can demonstrate you have truly been listening to someone is when you bring up something they told you at the very end of your conversation. You are showing them that you were not only listening to them, but you are acknowledging the importance of what they told you.
Do you have ways that you demonstrate you are listening to someone? If so, please share them!