Strategies to improve listening skills include practicing receptive body language, asking questions and resisting the desire to interrupt. Good listening can make a speaker feel more comfortable and improve the quality of communication.
Nonverbal communication is actually one of the most influential factors that can affect listening, and it's important for good listeners to practice open body language that makes the speaker feel more at ease. Leaning slightly toward the speaker and making eye contact are two techniques that demonstrate engagement in the conversation. Smiling and nodding subtly are also indications of interest. Good listeners should avoid crossing their arms or putting their hands into their pockets, which can indicate boredom or a lack of interest. Compulsive or nervous gestures such as clicking a pen or frequently checking a watch or cell phone should also be avoided.
Asking questions is actually one of the best ways to be an active listener. By asking genuine questions, listeners indicate that they are paying attention to the speaker and processing information. Asking questions also gives the speaker the opportunity to talk more.
Good listeners should also learn to resist interrupting the speaker, no matter how difficult it may be. Listening without interrupting creates trust in a conversation and can help the speaker feel more comfortable. Many people listen only for the opportunity to reply, but a good listener waits before responding and gives the speaker plenty of space to talk.