Mindful listening is an integral skill for any coach, leader, or friend. Holding a simple conversation may not seem like it requires skill, only participation, but to really get to know someone, you need the ability to listen to them. Good listening habits are the key to seeing things from another person’s perspective, and to building connections between yourself and others.
- Listen mindfully to what the other person is saying. To put it another way, avoid thinking about your response while they are still talking. Pauses in the conversation might feel awkward initially, but most people will appreciate that you don’t jump to conclusions right away. Say, “You make an interesting point. Let me think about it for a second,” and they will usually be happy to.
- Repeat back what the other person has said to show that you were listening. This allows you to make sure that what you heard is what they meant. Paraphrasing their information and hearing it again allows you to better understand their point of view.
- Keep your body language appropriate to the current conversation and show attentiveness. Appearing to be interested goes a long way in providing a space of comfort and trust. Keep your stance casual, nod when appropriate, and make eye contact without staring at them.
- Watch the other person’s body language for more information about what they are saying. Equally important, watch for clues into how they are responding to what you are saying. Not all communication is words.
- Avoid distractions. Ignore your phone and turn off the ringer unless you’re expecting an emergency call. Find a quiet place where interruptions from passersby will be less likely. Keep video screens out of your line of sight so that they don’t catch your eye.
- Don’t assume that you know what somebody is thinking or what they meant when they said something vague. Ask for clarification so the conversation can continue to flow in a positive way.
- Be honest in your responses. If you don’t know something, say so. Improved listening can help you in both your work and personal conversations. It improves your ability to establish relationships and build bonds with others. Practice these habits with each conversation to improve your skills and, by doing that, make conversations more valuable for everyone involved.
If you are looking for an in-depth approach to becoming a better listener, consider our Coaching Fundamentals™ program.