Has anyone ever looked at you and said, “Are you listening?” Or have you ever looked at someone and asked the same question?

In today’s high-stress and high-tech society, we seem to devote less time to listening to one another, yet communication is far more important than ever! Good listening helps ensure understanding, solve problems and conflicts, and build relationships both at work and at home.

Ernest Hemingway said “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Listening well means listening intently and responding to what the other person is saying, and sometimes, not saying.

How can you be a better listener? As a certified life and career coach, I suggested the following six tips for developing great listening skills.

  • Be present and pay attention
  • Be curious, sincere and open minded
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Be okay with silence
  • Observe body language
  • Ask good questions

Be present and pay attention:

Oftentimes, we are not really in the moment when we are listening to a conversation. Other times, we may have already drawn our own conclusions when the other person is still talking. It’s crucial to stop the inner dialogues, be there both physically and mentally and truly give our full and undivided attention to the person who is talking. The focus is on the person you are carrying the talk with.

Be curious, sincere and open minded:

Curiosity is an important element of listening. When we assume that we already know what the other person is saying, we make our own assumption and lose the interest of hearing them. And ultimately, we not only miss what the other person wants to say but also miss out the person’s emotion and feelings to build a meaningful relationship

Don’t interrupt:

Being a builder myself, I am guilty of having the urge to finish a sentence or jump in and provide solutions and opinions for others. Do people always look for opinions and solutions when they talk? Absolutely not. Patience is definitely a needed virtue to help us listen well! A good listener not only understands the need but also provides the space for others.

Be okay with silences:

Most people feel awkward about silence and try to fill the discomfort by talking. Silence; however, could be good. It allows people to process and digest what’s being said and at the same time offers a chance for people to consider what to say next or what questions to ask. Don’t jump in because it makes you uncomfortable.

Observe body language:

We’ve all heard that 90% of communication is nonverbal. 90% may not be the right figure; however, it definitely points out the importance of nonverbal language in our communication. Some of the nonverbal communication includes eye contact, smiling, hand gestures, nodding with agreement and leaning toward the person who talks. What does your body language project your level of interest as you listen to the other person? Bored, absent or interested?

Ask good questions:

People say things for a reason! When your spouse tells you, “I had a horrible day at work!” Do you think your spouse is simply enticing for your empathy and the words of “I am sorry to hear that?” What would happen if you stop whatever you are doing, look at her/him, and say “I am sorry, please tell me what happened.” How would that make the person feel? Asking good questions is one of the best ways to show others that you care, and you hear them.

We live in a fast-paced era and are so easily distracted and disconnected due to technology and social media nowadays. Intentional listening is so crucial, and it helps bridge the connection with people in our life.