Signs of Active Listening
Active listening involves both verbal and non-verbal signs.
- Posture can tell a lot about both the speaker and listener in interpersonal interactions.
- An attentive listener tends to lean slightly forward or sideways while sitting.
- Other signs of active listening may include a slight slant of the head or resting the head on one hand.
- It is normal and encouraging for you to look at the speaker.
- Gauge how much eye contact is appropriate for any given situation.
- Remember to alternate your eye contact from one eye of the speaker to the other.
- Combine eye contact with smiles and other non-verbal messages to encourage the speaker.
- Small smiles can be used to show that you are paying attention to what is being said or as a way of agreeing or being pleased with the messages being received.
- Combined with nods of the head, smiles can be powerful in affirming that messages are being listened to and understood.
- Automatic mirroring of any facial expressions used by the speaker can be a sign of attentive listening.
- These reflective expressions can help to show sympathy and empathy in more emotional situations.
- Attempting to consciously mimic facial expressions can be a sign of inattention.
- Remembering a few key points (including the name of the speaker!) reinforces that the message sent has been received and understood.
- Remembering details, ideas and concepts from previous conversations shows that you pay attention and encourages the speaker to communicate.
- When possible, make brief notes to act as a memory jog later. The human mind is notoriously bad at remembering details, especially for any length of time.
Verbal Signs of Active Listening
- Casual and frequent use of words and phrases, such as: ‘Very good’, ‘Yes’ or ‘Mmm’ can become irritating to the speaker. With that said, if it feels authentic to make an affirmation, go for it.
- Succinctly explain why you are agreeing with a certain point without overdoing it.
- Reflecting is closely repeating or paraphrasing what the speaker has said in order to show comprehension.
- Reflection is a powerful skill that can reinforce the message of the speaker and demonstrate understanding.
- You can demonstrate that you have been paying attention by asking relevant questions that help to clarify what the speaker said.
- By asking relevant questions you also help to reinforce that you have an interest in what the speaker has been saying.
- Repeating a summary of what has been said back to the speaker is a technique used by the listener to repeat what has been said in their own words.
- Summarizing involves taking the main points of the received message and reiterating them in a logical and clear way, giving the speaker chance to correct if necessary.
The strategy of asking open-ended questions—instead of closed-ended or leading questions—is a useful tool for good listening.