So what makes a good listener?
Most important, the best listeners possess a willingness to keep quiet while someone else speaks. But it’s not just listening that’s important; it’s being attentive and present. In this era of multi-tasking, it’s hard to concentrate on just one thing and keep your hands still. And it's crucial to disconnect yourself from technology.
If you’re going to listen, you must pay attention to what is said, making nonverbal gestures as well as verbal acknowledgements so the speaker understands that you’re following while encouraging the conversation. It's okay to nod while the speaker speaks and it's helpful to repeat back what is said so the speaker knows you are listening and feels validated.
Listening is not an innate ability, it’s a skill. And like any skill, it takes lots of practice to perfect. So why not start? Choose a coffee or lunch date and ask, “How are you doing?” Then make a point to listen. Ask questions that encourage conversation and focus your attention on the other person. Hopefully, it feels good to be a listener and you’ll try it again – soon.