6 Ways To Have Better Conversations (Using Active Listening)

A few key habits will help make a bigger impact in a conversation by becoming an active listener.

Mar 22, 2018

Listening is one of the most important social skills to build better connections with others. Still, many of us struggle to pay attention during a conversation by overthinking or waiting for the chance to speak. Genuine listening has become a rare quality in people and those who develop this skill can build richer relationships, develop a deeper understanding of others, become better at resolving conflicts, and communicate more effectively with friends, family, and coworkers. A few key habits will help make a bigger impact in a conversation by becoming an active listener.

1. STAY PRESENT

Active listening starts with a conscious effort to focus on what the other person says in a conversation. That means actually following what the other person has to say rather than queuing up what you want to say next and waiting for the chance to speak. Intentionally listen to the person before responding. Then make sure to add to the conversation rather than just repeating or rephrasing what the other person has already said.

2. USE BODY LANGUAGE

People can tell if you are listening to them through certain gestures such as eye contact or a simple nod of the head. You can also turn your ear in towards the person to hear the person better. This gives people a better indication that you are listening to the person without speaking over them and interrupting.

3. SHOW INTEREST IN THE OTHER PERSON

To be interesting, you must be interested. Instead of approaching a conversation looking for the opportunity to show off or talk about yourself, go into it with a genuine interest in what the other person has to say. Which leads to the next point.

4. ASK OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS

Open ended questions open a gateway to learning about another person and enhancing a conversation. For example, rather than asking yes or no questions like “Do you like to travel?”, instead ask, “What do you love about traveling?” Using open-ended questions gives the other person the opportunity to open up about themselves.

That also means responding in a way that shows you have heard what the other person has said. Using vague expressions like “yeah”, “interesting”, “nice”, or “great” gives the impression that you are not actually paying attention. After asking an open ended question, listen to the response before following up with a statement that relates back to what the person has said.

5. PAY ATTENTION TO EMOTIONS

Empathizing allows someone to connect more emotionally with other people and helps you to relate to that person’s experiences. Beyond listening to the words that the person says, pay attention to the emotions behind those words.

Often times, people reveal their emotions through body language and vocal tonality. Paying attention to these nonverbal cues will help to understand the point behind what someone says. Their voice may rise at the end of a sentence if they feel unsure of themselves or perhaps they will lower their voice out of fear of sharing and showing vulnerability. People may also express emotions through their facial expressions and gestures when speaking.

6. RELATE EMOTIONALLY

Reading the emotions behind what a person says, you can respond by sharing moments in life where you have felt similar emotions. A logical connection involves finding common interests between people. However, an emotional connection means sharing times in which we have felt the same way. You can build stronger emotional connections by relating back to someone and sharing feelings.

Developing social skills like active listening doesn’t happen overnight. However, with a bit of practice, you can improve listening skills, leading to deeper, more meaningful connections with others.

ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.

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