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Be a World-Class Listener: Posture and Non-Verbal Responses

This lesson is a part of an audio course Be a World-Class Listener by Ben Butina, Ph.D.

Lesson five was kind of brutal, wasn't it? When I called this course How to Become a World-Class Listener, I wasn't joking. To become world-class is going to take some real work. I hope you listened to Lesson 5 at least a few times because to reach your goal, you'll not only need to remember all those points, you'll need to be able to apply them in real-time.

This lesson on posture and non-verbal responses will be a little easier.

The truth is, if you're listening (with your ears and your eyes) for content, meaning, and emotion, your non-verbals will follow suit. Your concentration on the other person is going to be obvious to them without you having to do much of anything intentionally.

There are a few things to keep in mind, though.

Pretend someone with a very nice suit, and briefcase walked up to you and said, "I have some sad news. Your relative just passed away. In her will, she made you the sole inheritor of her estate."

What would your posture be like? In all likelihood, you'd be leaning forward slightly toward the person speaking. This is the natural posture of someone who is intently interested in what is being said. If you're listening for content, meaning, and emotion, this will probably happen naturally, but you can jumpstart the process at the very beginning of the conversation by adopting this posture intentionally. It's very simple. Whether you're standing or sitting, just lean slightly toward the person who is speaking. If that gets uncomfortable, you can lean a little to the side. What you don't want to do is kick back and lean away from the speaker. You might look relaxed, but you won't look interested.

Now let's go back to our hypothetical lawyer who is just bringing you news of your inheritance. What is your eye contact with them like? It's probably pretty solid, right? When you're interested in what someone has to say, you're making solid eye contact with them. Again, this is going to happen naturally if you're focused on content, meaning, and emotion, but you should also start the conversation off by doing it intentionally. Don't overdo this one. There's a difference between good eye contact and staring at someone like you're Hannibal Lector, and they're your next meal.

If eye contact is something you have trouble with because of past trauma or some other psychological reason, you can look at the point right between the person's eyes. It's not ideal, but the speaker probably won't be able to tell the difference, and you will at least be communicating that you're interested in what they have to say.

The only other non-verbal you have to concern yourself with is an occasional nod. A short nod is a non-verbal way of saying, "Yes, I'm listening, go on." Again, if you're listening for content, meaning, and emotion, you'll probably do this naturally. If you aren't, do it intentionally.

To sum this lesson up, you want to use the non-verbals you'd use for that lawyer who is about to tell you about the oceanside house you just inherited. Lean forward slightly, make good eye contact, and occasionally nod to encourage the speaker to keep going.

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Written by

Ben Butina, Ph.D.

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