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“Active listening” means full concentration on what is said, and not just passive “listening” to the speaker’s message.

Verbal communication is crucial in every aspect of life. Active listening can help you collaborate more effectively, reduce misunderstandings and wasted work, negotiate more effectively, build more successful working relationships, and make a better impression on the people you work with.

Active listening also means patience – pauses and short periods of silence should be acceptable and involves giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and feelings, so they should be given plenty of time to do so.

Here are some tips to improve your listening skills:

Pay attention! Don’t be distracted. Put the phone down and make eye contact with the person you are talking to. Make mental notes about the speaker’s broader point of view. Why are you being told this? How does the speaker feel about what was said? Don’t think to answer. Focus on what they want you to hear.

Show that you are listening. Make eye contact, nod when appropriate, and make small verbal comments like “yeah” and “huh.” But don’t interrupt to repeat what they just said. This may seem like a good way to show that you’re involved, but it can derail the conversation.

Offer a feedback. When the opportunity arises, you can offer in-depth feedback on what was said. This can take the form of reflecting on what has been said, asking additional questions, or offering your point of view.

Do not make hasty conclusions! You don’t read minds, and neither does the person talking to you. If you start to feel upset about what has been said, ask for clarification. Say, “It sounds like you mean X, and I just want to clarify. Do you say Y?’ By allowing paraphrasing or clarifying, you avoid making unfair assumptions.

Active listening takes practice, but it has the potential to greatly improve your ability to hear people, communicate, and remember important details in everyday conversations.