The ability to listen effectively is an essential element of the communication process. Paulette Chaffee, educator, speech therapist, children’s advocate, and attorney, believes it is virtually impossible to sustain any long-term communication without effectively listening, whether professional or personal. Chaffee offers these robust tips on how to enhance your listening skills:
5 Robust tips on how to enhance your listening skills:
1. Strive to Develop Heightened Self-Awareness
Proactive communication skills require continuous practice and the development of self-awareness. Listening to others effectively requires focus but focus without self-awareness can lead to unintentional body language that could miscommunicate impressions to others. After all, as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
2. Show Active Listening
When exercising listening skills, the listener should communicate the appropriate gestures and body language throughout the conversation to give the speaker active listening affirmation. Showing engagement in the conversation as an effective listener involves the occasional head nod, an open and interested posture, facial expressions like smiling, and brief verbal sounds for feedback such as “uh-huh” or “mmm-hmm” that encourages the speaker to continue verbal communication. Verbal feedback to a speaker should only be communicated by the listener when the speaker pauses during a conversation.
Active listeners can also show whoever is speaking that they are paying attention by facing the speaker, maintaining eye contact, and steering clear of distractions that take away attention from the speaker, such as a side conversation or looking at their phone.
In addition, whenever diverting thoughts start to occupy a listener’s brain, constructive listeners practice mentally setting those thoughts aside and tuning back into the conversation with strategies such as taking notice of the speaker’s body language. Finally, active listeners carefully listen with an open mind throughout the entire conversation.
Remember, listening effectively means listening to understand, not respond, and tuning out any mental rebuttals that might naturally sneak into the mind.
3. Listen More Attentively Using Mental Images
The human mind is prone to distraction, so having additional strategies to practice staying fully alert within any conversation is helpful and practical. For example, listeners can remain present by mentally picturing what the speaker is saying. This strategy allows the brain to generate a mental model of the information being communicated, keeping senses awake and concentration sharp.
4. Create a Positive Experience for the Speaker
Great listeners contribute positively to a conversation and aim to converse with a speaker with the intent to boost an individual’s self-esteem. An active listener successfully boosts a speaker’s confidence by offering continuous support throughout a conversation. By providing a platform of support, an effective listener creates a safe environment for open and non-judgmental discussions.
5. Practice Mirroring
Mirroring is the art of matching personal energy levels or emotions with another’s. When listening, the act of mirroring is another way for listeners to communicate to the speaker that they are engaged. For example, when the speaker smiles, the listener can reflect the speaker’s feelings by smiling back. The equal level of response from the individual listening grants clues to the speaker that what they are saying is being actively understood.
About Paulette Chaffee
Paulette Chaffee is a teacher, speech therapist, and attorney deeply involved in the Fullerton community. As an educator and member of various non-profit boards, her focus has always been on providing children with the highest quality education. Ms. Chaffee holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands, a California Lifetime Teaching Credential, and is admitted to the California Bar.