How to develop your listening skills
Learn to take a genuine interest in other people. Ask questions more than you talk about yourself. Listen to understand, not just to reply. Some people have a tendency to formulate counter-arguments in their head while the other person is speaking. This means that they’re not being fully present or focusing on the other person. Good listeners listen carefully, try to find out the details of what the other person is saying, and ask ‘how’ and ‘why’ before jumping in with their own two cents.
Don’t make up your mind before you’ve properly heard what the other person has to say. Practise having conversations whose sole purpose is for you to find out about somebody else’s point of view. Treat it as an educational activity – you never know what you will learn!
Paraphrase what you’ve heard. Being able to do that is a useful skill that will show your conversation partner that you’ve heard what they said and that you’d like to find out more. You can say, for example, ‘So what you’re saying is … – how does that make you feel?’ or ‘What I’m hearing from you is that … – can you tell me a bit more about that?’.
Try not to offer solutions unless it’s clear your conversation partner is looking for one. This can be done even if you’re a language teacher – when your student asks you what the correct answer is, instead of giving it to them, ask them what they think it is. They might get it right and if they do, they’ll be more likely to remember it.
Use body language that helps you establish a connection with your conversation partner. Maintain eye contact, lean in to show you’re listening, nod to show understanding. Consider learning about the body language in the culture whose language you’re speaking or the culture your conversation partner is from.