Active Listening is an extremely important and fundamental part of communication skills.
1. Eye Contact
It is standard and commonly positive for the listener to look at the speaker. Eye contact can however be unapproachable, specially for more shy speakers – test how much eye contact is appropriate for any given situation. Combine eye contact with smiles and other non-verbal messages to encourage the speaker.
The listener can prove that they have been listening carefully by asking appropriate questions and/or making statements that build or help to explain what the speaker has said. By asking appropriate questions, the listener also helps to emphasize that they have an attention in what the speaker has been saying.
Posture can say a lot about the sender and receiver in interpersonal communications. The attentive listener tends to lean slightly forward or sideways whereas sitting. Other signs of active listening may include a slight slant of the head or resting the head on one hand.
Remembering a few key points can help to reinforce that the messages sent has been successful. Remembering details, ideas from earlier conversations proves that attention was kept and is likely to inspire the speaker to carry on. Through longer interactions it may be suitable to make very brief notes to act as a memory bump when questioning or explicatory later.
The active listener will not be distract and so will avoid fidgeting, looking at a clock or watch, doodling, playing with hair or picking their fingernails.
Automatic mirroring of any facial expressions used by the speaker can be a sign of active listening. These reflective expressions can support to show sympathy and empathy in more emotional situations. Attempting to consciously mimic facial expressions (i.e. not automatic reflection of expressions) can be a sign of inattention.
Repeating a summary of what has been said to the speaker is a technique used by the listener to repeat what has been said in their own words. Summarizing includes taking the key points of the received message and restating them in a coherent and clear way, giving the speaker opportunity to correct if needed.
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