There is a difference between waiting for your turn to talk and truly listening. Our body language, turn-taking and type of response can all play a part in whether or not we are viewed as an earnest listener. In today’s fast-paced world, genuine listening is a gift of our time.
Here are 6 tips for improving your listening skills:
1. Square your shoulders
View each of your shoulders and your partner’s shoulders as points in a square. When you directly face each other forming a square, you show your full attention to the speaker. If your shoulders are turned partly away, he/she may perceive your stance as a desire to leave the conversation. So stay square!
2. Open your posture
Keep your arms and legs uncrossed. When you cross them, you may inadvertently send your partner the message that you feel anxious, resistant, tense, insecure or afraid. And it may also send the message that you aren’t listening intently. Best practice? Stay open and relaxed for the majority of your conversation.
3. Lean in
Lean your body slightly towards the speaker to show that you are interested in what they are talking about. Leaning backwards may indicate feelings of dislike or negativity. The backwards lean is a hard-wired response from your brain that encourages you to escape from unpleasant or dangerous situations. To the speaker, the direction of your lean indicates interest or disinterest in the dialogue.
4. Make eye contact
Visually attend to your speaker’s face. Staring is not necessary or desirable. Glancing away, then returning attention to the speaker’s face and eyes shows that you are engaged in their story or conversation.
5. Practice reflective listening
When the speaker explains an event or happening, repeat back to them what you heard in your own words. This shows you are actively listening and understand what they have said. This can be especially helpful if someone is describing an emotional moment and needs to connect or unload stress.
6. Raise your eyebrows and nod
When someone makes a high impact statement and really wants you to listen, they will look at you, look away, then look back to see if an impact has been made. At this time, you can show that you are truly attending by raising your eyebrows and giving a “triple nod.” Such movements will reinforce that you are genuinely engaged in the conversation.
Your body language and responses during one-on-one conversations can result in improved friendships, romantic relationships, business connections and general rapport with other human beings. We often know that we like or dislike talking with a particular individual, but have a tough time determining why we feel the way we do. Effective, sincere listening skills lead us to authentic connections and facilitate our own “likeability.”BONUS TIP: Want to know if someone is truly happy to see you? Note THE EYEBROW FLASH. If you run into someone you know or have not seen in a while, pay close attention to their eyebrow movements. Flashing, or quickly arching the brows upward, indicates that someone is pleased to see you. No movement at all may indicate that he/she is actually unhappy to see you. The eyebrow flash is a universal “cool kid” greeting that is used all around the world (except in Japan where it is deemed inappropriate or sexual).