You realized your active listening skills need work. Great. Now how do you improve them and practice before that next interview or important conversation? Here are 4 techniques you can do to improve your active listening skillset:
1. Summarize Content
A good way to practice active listening is to summarize content in writing or verbally. To practice this skill, listen to an interview with a coach, athlete, or celebrity. You can also lookup lyrics to a song you enjoy or even watch the morning news. After listening to the interview, song, or news, try your best to convey the same message in one or two sentences. The shorter your summary, the better job you did paying attention and conveying essential information.
2. Limit Distractions
Before you engage in an interview, an important phone call, or if you simply want to be sure you’re actively listening, limit your distractions. Turn your phone on silent before making a call — or turn it off if it is an in-person meeting. Do not try and multitask while another person speaks.
3. Practice Pausing
Not every second of your conversation must be filled with someone speaking. It’s okay if there’s silence. A few seconds of silence gives the opportunity to provide a thoughtful response and shows that you are willing to take time to complete the act of listening before giving that response.
So often, people are so uncomfortable with silence it leads them to talk over each other. Take a deep breath, calm down, and know that radio silence for a few seconds is not the worst thing in the world.
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4. Take Turns
Remember, you’re having a conversation, not giving a monologue. Do not go on rants or long-winded explanations. These diatribes only alienate your listener or partner in conversation. Long-winded explanations may seem like the best way to provide detail, but too much detail is overwhelming. This oversaturation of information often can be counterproductive: your listener tunes out and retains even less information.
If you have a lot to say or need to communicate a lot of details, make sure you pause and ask questions to see if the other party is following along; they may want to stop and take notes or ask clarifying questions.
Bringing It All Together
As with all things, even if you have mastered a skill, there is always room for improvement. We all have areas we can improve upon when it comes to our listening skills. Active listening is a skill that starts at a young age and develops throughout your life. To be successful in the professional world, this skill needs to be developed and maintained. Take time to listen and learn from someone else; you never know who is going to have the next great idea or be the next great candidate for your company.