Active listening involves both verbal and nonverbal skills—and both send strong signals. The more we focus on what’s being shared with us, the more we’ll understand and build connections.
No distractions. No multitasking. No thinking about other demands. Try to be fully present. This lets them feel heard and respected.
These are phrases that indicate you’re listening.
Prompt examples: “ummhmm”
“I get that…”
“…and then what happened?”
Paraphrases are quick summaries of what someone is sharing. In your own words, play back what they just told you. This has several benefits:
conveys that you indeed have been listening
gives them a fresh perspective on what they said
ensures that you heard correctly and offers a chance for them to explain more if you didn’t
validates your empathy, acceptance and positive regard
An active listener faces and/or leans towards the talker. They also nod their head and have an open posture (arms not crossed). This all conveys focus and interest.
Facial expressions can communicate warmth—or judgment or disapproval. Be aware of your expressions and don’t allow distractions or personal reactions to effect them.
Though silence sometimes feels uncomfortable, it can actually be positive. It allows us to process and think about what is being shared. It also gives us time to fully take in emerging emotions. Not allowing for silence gets in the way of meaningful conversations.