As I mentioned before, there are speaking skills and then there are listening skills. Let's talk about the attending skill.
As you learned previously, the attending level is the 2nd level of listening. I want to share with you some techniques that are associated with this level. Here are 4 listening techniques you can start using that will increase your attending skill if you don’t already use them:
- Eye contact. The expected amount of eye contact varies from culture to culture, but appropriate eye contact is important. It shows the other person that you are engaged in the conversation and interested in what they have to say. It's a sign of respect and shows a quality of courage. If you have a hard time making eye contact with other people, then don’t look into their eyes but look somewhere close by like the spot in between the eyes. It still gives them the impression that you are making good eye contact.
- A posture of involvement. Your body posture is important because body position clearly indicates attention and interest. You could be standing or sitting, perhaps leaning forward with the body facing the speaker. Your posture can have a big impact either positive or negative. If your posture is too aggressive it can make you seem intimidating, however, if your posture is too passive it can make you seem uninterested or weak. The best thing to do is to make sure you are aware of your posture at all times and give off the right type and amount of energy that is needed.
- Ignoring potential distractions. When you are having a conversation with someone the best practice is to avoid allowing something else to distract you. Potential distractions include TV, phones, computers, video games, other people walking past, as well as your own thoughts. Try to give your full attention to the person speaking as much as possible. So if you’re at dinner and you have a device make sure you turn it on silent and put it away.
- Encouragement. Total silence is often taken as a sign of boredom or inattention. The speaker needs occasional encouragement in the form of a head nod or you saying “uh-huh, oh?, mm-hmm, I see, and then what happened, right, definitely, go on, oh no she didn’t! I told you she was crazy!” Answers like these do not imply agreement or disagreement, just attention. This helps to make the person feel like you are attentively listening and engaged in the conversation while they are speaking and you are listening.
Now, I know these techniques are very simple but you know the simple things are usually the most powerful. If you already use these techniques then good for you. Now go out and teach them to other people. And if you aren't familiar with these techniques; go out and start practicing by using them in your conversations and gain a new perspective and level up your listening abilities.