When it comes to listening, it’s so important to practice a certain set of skills, in order to ensure that you are an active listener. Giving your undivided attention can be pretty difficult when you’re listening to someone and all you’re waiting for is for your turn to respond. One of the biggest mistakes we make when trying to listen to someone is this: We listen to respond instead of listening to understand. It is, quite literally, one of the most common mistakes we make.

It’s so easy to get lost in your own thoughts in a conversation. I am all to guilty of this flaw. There are times when I have a difficult time listening to understand. Many of us do from time to time. Sometimes we easily forgot the simple skills we have been taught to be a good listener. While, other times our own thoughts of how we want to respond or even our impatience to respond conflicts with us properly using active listening skills.

Whether it’s listening to your partner in a relationship, to a friend, to your boss, or in a work meeting; if we could just be more receptive then we would all be better listeners. What’s more, is we would have the upper hand on better communication as well. Great listeners make great communicators. It’s easier said than done. But today we’re going to explore the 5 active listening skills and what they entail. Here at GenTwenty, we pride ourselves in giving you the best set of skills to succeed.

5 Active Listening Skills

1. Paying attention

It’s the first, yet one of the hardest active listening skills to instill in our own conversations. Simply paying attention to the person who is speaking to you could make all the difference in being a great listener.

At times, when we are in conversation with another person, we may want to hurry up and get our point across. Or maybe you don’t agree with what’s being said to you and you want to cut off the person and respond right away. What’s important to remember here is, just as you want your point to be valid, so does the person who is speaking to you. Taking this extra step in understanding their point may actually cause you to pause and understand them better.

In a career setting, this one active listening skill can be the factor that makes you look good or bad. Did you pay attention to the slide show in that meeting? Did you listen and take notes? If not, chances are, it’s going to affect you negatively, should your boss ask you something about that meeting.

2. Show that you’re listening

With this active listening skill, it goes hand in hand with paying attention. However, actions speak louder than words.

Saying you’re listening and showing that you’re listening are two very different things. When you show someone you are listening, responding with small verbal comments like “sure” and “mmhmm”, are great ways to show someone you are in tune with them.

Also something as simple as nodding your head or a positive emotional reaction such as smiling can be all the difference.

When you are speaking, think of when someone is just sitting there blankly staring at you while you are talking to them. Does it bother you that they aren’t showing any reaction to what you are saying? Notice the fact that they are not being receptive? If that makes you feel uneasy then this should serve as a great reminder that you should always be receptive when someone is speaking to you.

3. Provide your feedback

When it is your turn to talk after just listening to someone speak to you, providing feedback is another great way to show that you were actively listening and understanding the person. Being reflective on what the person just said to you and maybe even repeating back a few of their points, will swiftly show that person that you were really listening and that you understand their points.

Such simple gestures can really show someone that you have listened to understand instead of listening just to reply. Asking questions for clarification is another great to show you are actively listening. Lastly, summarize often what the person said, in your response to them.

4. Defer judgment

Do. Not. Interrupt. In relationship arguments, for example, this is such a crucial part of maintaining good communication. Try not to interrupt a person even if you disagree with them. When it’s your turn to talk, the floor will be all yours.

When arguing about something, we have a tendency to want to interrupt with counter arguments in the middle of their point. This it what causes an argument to escalate and eventually leads to having poor communication in a relationship. It will also lead to someone feeling misunderstood and like their points are not valid.

In the workplace, interrupting can be a deal breaker with your boss. Especially when in a meeting setting and there are several people trying to get their points or opinions across. Assigning a pointer or speaking tool and abiding by the rule of going in turn, can really help to make a team meeting be more successful.

5. Respond appropriately

Lastly, responding in an appropriate manner is always best when practicing good active listening skills. When attacking a speaker or interrupting them, it will just lead to the speaker being frustrated and feeling like they are being put down. In order to not escalate things, respond with respect is always the better outcome. Be honest, candid, and always assert your opinions in a respective manner. This will lead to a better and less frustrating conversation.

Active listening skills were designed to teach us how to be receptive, understanding, and showing all of this with your actions, respectively. Some of the best communicators practice good active listening skills.

When in doubt, it’s best to always wait for a speaker to be done before responding or asking questions. At times, we may often get caught up in just wanting to know something, but this only leads to a destructive pattern of not being a great listener. I think the feelings are mutual in that we all want to be great listeners. These 5 active listening skills will get you on the right path.

Which active listening skill do you struggle with the most?