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The 10 keys to active listening

Listening is possibly one of the most difficult communication skills to apply. Here are 10 tips to help you boost your listening to others, in order to have healthier and more productive conversations.

  1. Make the other person feel comfortable. It is essential to find an appropriate and relaxed context (space and time) from the beginning of the conversation.
  2. Show interest. It is simply a matter of concentrating on the other person, being attentive to what they are expressing both verbally and non-verbally.
  3. Eliminate distractions. As soon as our thoughts start to wander, we refocus on the conversation.
  4. Maintain eye contact. This contact should be frequent without being excessive.
  5. Ask questions. ‘Open-ended’ questions (starting with ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘which’, etc.) help to foster communication and listening with the other person, while ‘closed’ questions seek a concise answer, usually of the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type.
  6. Let people talk, do not interrupt. It is important to create a space for conversation in which the other person feels comfortable.
  7. Use the silences. If we wait before responding, our interlocutor will often continue talking and provide us with more information that we may find useful or interesting.
  8. Show understanding, avoid prejudice. Even if we disagree with the other person, it is important that we listen to their arguments and take the opportunity to ask clarifying questions.
  9. Do not become irritable or lose patience. Avoid gestures of nervousness or impatience with hands or feet.
  10. Rephrase or summarise. It is very useful for informing the other person of our level of understanding or the need for further clarification.

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