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Active Listening Skills

Enhance your listening skills by implementing these seven suggestions. 
1. Be Attentive 
  • Make eye contact while the other person speaks. 
  • Lean toward the other person, and nod your head occasionally. 
  • Avoid folding your arms as this signals that you are closed off and might not be listening.
  • Watch nonverbal behavior. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and other behaviors can sometimes tell you more than words alone. 
  • Quiet down your internal dialogue while listening. Avoid daydreaming and stay present and focused on the conversation at hand.
2. Ask open-ended questions
  • Encourage the speaker to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings by framing open-ended questions. Open-ended questions require more than a 1- or 2-word answer. 
  • Examples of open-ended questions include:
    • Tell me more about…
    • How did…?
    • What do you think…?
    • Help me understand...
3. Ask probing questions
  • Probing questions encourage the speaker to give you additional information or details, signaling that you are listening and thoughtful.
  • Use the context of your conversation to focus on “What, How and Why” questions.
  • Examples of probing questions:
    • What do you like about it...
    • How did you decide to...
    • Why did you select...
  • Avoid closed yes-or-no questions. Those answers tend to shut down the conversation.
4. Request clarification
  • Show interest by asking questions to clarify what is said and ensure that the correct message has been received.
  • Do not interrupt the speaker; wait until the speaker pauses.
  • Helpful ways to request clarification include:
    • When you say..., do you mean…? 
    • Can you please repeat... I did not understand what you said about...?
5. Paraphrase
  • Once the other person has finished expressing a thought, try to paraphrase what they said to make sure you understand and to show that you are paying attention. 
  • Helpful ways to paraphrase include:
    • What I hear you saying is…
    • It sounds like…
    • If I understand you right….
    • In other words, what you are saying is...
6. Be attuned to and reflect feelings
  • When appropriate, express empathy. 
  • To experience empathy, try to feel what the speaker is feeling at that moment by putting yourself in the speaker’s place.
  • Examples of phrases that express empathy:
  • I understand 
  • That must be really hard for you
  • Congratulations on your success
7. Summarize
  • Bring together the speaker’s key messages.
  • Ask what the next steps should be to continue your conversation.