It’s very easy to talk about our own selves and how we feel, what we want, what we need and the list goes on. But how easy is it to sit back and listen? To let others express themselves? To hold space for them? Well, it can be quite challenging at times. If you struggle to have safe conversations with others, this article is for you. Keep reading for some quick tips to elevate your listening skills.
Good communication is half listening.
Listening is equally as important as speaking in making communication meaningful. When we’re presented with information that contradicts our own, we often get defensive, disengage or stop paying attention to the speaker. Our discomfort due to the information being shared can cause us to create a hostile environment for the speaker, of which they will be able to notice.
Creating a safe space is one of the key aspects of having an objective conversation. It helps the speaker relax and possibly share more information, now that they feel more comfortable.
Use your body language.
Simple actions can help the speaker feel safe and reassure them that you’re listening. Eye contact is a very powerful one. Try to maintain a good level of eye contact with the speaker, but not too much to the point where it feels intimidating. Other simple affirmations like nodding or making sounds like ‘mhm’ can also reassure the speaker. Keep a good posture so that it feels more engaging. For example: try sitting up or leaning forwards a little instead of slouching.
Reflect on what they’re saying.
This gives you a chance to try and open your mind to the new information presented. It can help you respond objectively and reduce the discomfort in the conversation. You can also reflect out-loud by repeating their point but paraphrasing it, based on your understanding. This would help you make sure you understood correctly and give them an opportunity to elaborate further or correct you if you misunderstood. This also gives speakers a sense that you were listening closely and that you are interested in what they’re saying.
Keep your questions open-ended.
Open-ended questions are far more effective then yes or no questions because they allow for elaboration and can aid in keeping the conversation going. Such questions also allow you to explore both of your points of view and can help you connect on a deeper level. Try to ask questions in a neutral tone so that the speaker doesn’t feel accused or judged. Also, try your best to wait till the speaker is done to ask your question. Interrupting them to ask a question can derail the conversation and disrupt their train of thought.