Q:

How can you improve your active listening skills?

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Quick Answer

Improve active listening skills by paying close attention to the speaker, showing that you’re listening, providing feedback and deferring judgement. Active listening can improve personal relationships and performance at work or in school.

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Full Answer

Active listening begins with giving the speaker your undivided attention. This also means communicating attention through non-verbal means, including looking directly at the speaker and not paying attention to other distractions. Attention also involves mental components, such as putting aside distracting thoughts and not working through a rebuttal as the speaker is talking.

Body language can also facilitate active listening. Nodding, smiling and making small verbal comments of agreement are all strategies that help make a speaker feel more comfortable. Exercising open and inviting posture is another effective use of body language.

Providing feedback to speakers shows that you hear and understand what they are saying. Reflecting on the speaker’s ideas and repeating your understanding back is a highly effective method of communicating. Additionally, asking questions to clarify points helps speakers know that you are actually listening and interpreting what they are saying.

It’s also important to defer judgement and resist the urge to interrupt the speaker. Interrupting can frustrate a speaker and make their message less effective. Allow the speaker to finish before offering potential counterarguments or asking questions.

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