Did you know you can improve the quality of a speaker by improving the quality of your listening? You have the power to improve the communication capacity of others by engaging more intentionally when you listen.
1. Look like you’re listening.
When someone knows you are listening their language, tone and demeanour can be more relaxed. A person fighting for your attention will feel led to be more exaggerated, intense or dramatic in order to capture your interest and garner a response.
Giving the speaker your full attention – looking at them, stopping what you are doing and facing your body towards them communicates value and engagement. They will be freed to more clearly communicate what they were wanting to say.
2. Let your face know what you’re thinking.
I have a very loud face. There has barely been an emotion I’ve felt that hasn’t demonstrated itself on my face – for better or worse!!
For better, someone speaking to me rarely has to guess what I’m feeling. For the most part my face mirrors the feelings being communicated or the facial expressions they are displaying. In a psychological sense, this mirroring communicates empathy for the speaker – “I am feeling what you’re feeling.”
Some people are naturally more blank. Their thinking face is expressionless. While you may well be following closely what the speaker is saying, they are not to know this from looking at you. You need to think about what your face conveys to the speaker.
3. Affirm the speaker.
Nodding your head, hmmm’ing, and saying “I see”, “oh really?” or, “uh-huh” let the speaker know you are listening even if there’s nothing much else for you to say in response.
Note – you can’t use these when you’re not listening! It’s unfair to the speaker and ultimately damages their trust in your true attention. These sounds are verbal affirmations to keep going, I’m with you, tell me what happened next. In their absence, in your silence, the speaker is forced to concede they’ve lost their audience or elevate the tone, volume and intensity to try and win you back.
‘Half-listening’ could very well double the speaking time. That’s bad maths. A speaker can lose focus on their main idea while trying to capture your undivided attention or elicit a response.
Ultimately, your listening can make the speaker more concise and more interesting.
What other traits have you noticed of good listeners? How have you found a good listener can improve your communication?