We all want to be liked and we all wish that our relationships could be smoother sometimes. The ability to instantly build a rapport with someone, to appear attentive and sensitive, and to show that you’re interested in that person and listening to them is something that can help you in a number of different situations. Whether you are trying to make new friends, make a new sale or pull the guy/girl that you really fancy, being a likeable person who’s good to talk to can help you to do just that.
When it comes to making friends and influencing people though, most of us make one major mistake – which is not to listen enough. This goes for people who are aware of the importance of listening too; even if you think you’re going out of your way to appear attentive there’s a good chance you’re getting it wrong. While we might make it look as though we’re listening, by smiling, staying quiet and nodding, in reality we are often just waiting for an opportunity to speak and put forward our side of the story. You might think that you can get away with this, but people can tell.
So how do you make it clear that you’re actually listening, and avoid this common mistake? There’s a technique for it and it’s called ‘active listening’.
Now if you could lend me your ears for a moment…
What Is Active Listening?
In active listening, you demonstrate to the speaker that you are actually listening, rather than just waiting silently for your ‘turn’, by ‘feeding back’ what you hear to the speaker. In short, this amounts to ‘paraphrasing’ what they say in response. So if they say ‘I’ve just had a great time in Croatia’, you might respond by just repeating the word ‘Croatia’ or ‘Ah a great time… good’. This demonstrates that their words have successfully penetrated that thick piece of bone that you call a skull and that you’ve understood at least enough to repeat what you’ve heard.
Better yet is paraphrasing the statement as a question, which is a great way to keep the conversation going. Here you prove you’ve listened, while at the same time inviting the speaker to elaborate on what they’re saying. For example, if they just they’ve been to Croatia, you could answer ‘Oh, Croatia?’. This would then give them the option of saying ‘Yeah, and it was really sunny’. If you just remain silent, they may be unsure as to whether or not they should elaborate or even whether or not you’ve heard. This way, you appear genuinely interested, while helping the conversation to move on naturally with no awkward silences.
Try using active listening next time you are chatting with your friends and note when they use it talking to you or others. If you can perfect it in these colloquial settings, then you should find it’s a powerful skill in negotiating, sales and even dating.