Be Present: 4 Ways To Be A Better Listener In Any Conversation

by Andrew Cammarano

Over the course of our lives, we've all come across speakers we admire for their confidence, fluency and the comforting environments they create.

Admittedly, I'm not the most accomplished of speakers, though I have seen considerable improvement with consistent application of the following strategy.

Experiment with it in your day-to-day life and reap the rewards.

Listen, listen, listen!

Though it seems ludicrously simple, listening is the most underestimated and perhaps the most important component of communicating.

Many people, myself included, think of communication skills in the speaking and articulating aspects. However, a good conversation is a give-and-take scenario; it shouldn't be one-way traffic.

When I refer to listening, I mean the active process. Don't just stand there like a potato; engage with the other person. Here's how to do it:

1. Open Body Language

Crossing your arms and constantly looking away gives the impression you're disinterested. Instead, adopt an open stance and maintain eye contact.

This will not only allow you to concentrate better on what an individual says, but it will also give the sense that you respect the person and find value in what he or she says.

2. Paraphrase

After a person finishes discussing something with you, paraphrasing or summarizing what he or she said and relaying it back demonstrates that you were, indeed, listening.

Furthermore, it allows for clarification of any points you may have misunderstood. Imagine this scenario:

Johnny: "It just seems like I'm taken for granted. My coworkers and seniors barely notice me, and worse, at the end of the day, I feel as though I've achieved nothing." Jimmy: "Mmm, it sounds as though you're no longer getting that sense of fulfillment, which you once experienced in the workplace." Johnny: "That's exactly how I feel!"

3. Form A "Cocoon"

We've all been in situations where distractions were abound.

You overhear a juicy bit of gossip over to your left and the TV to your right is blaring highlights of your team's most recent game. Meanwhile, your friend is trying to tell you something purposeful and you're giving him the old "uh huh" treatment.

Next time this happens to you, imagine you and the other person are cocooned. Block out your surroundings and focus on the other individual and what he or she is saying.

4. Let Them Talk!

Your Honor, I'm guilty of this one.

Don't interrupt a person when he or she speaks, no matter how important or excited you are to add your two cents. Additionally, you may think you're doing the person a favor, but finishing another person's sentences is another thing to avoid at all costs.

Interruptions disempower the individual and demonstrate that you care little for what he or she has to say. I know what you're thinking -- you're just trying to help. But, despite your good intentions, the other person isn't thinking, "Gee, I'm so glad he finished that sentence for me. I don't know what I would have done!"

Think back to a time you were interrupted. It doesn't feel pleasant, but rather, makes you feel insignificant.

Apply these principles in coming days and make them a habit. You will likely catch yourself when you interrupt your mom or your gaze starts to wander.

Keep practicing and perfect this craft to make it a useful tool for social and work relationships alike.