Good listening skills can aid debates and improve general conversation. A good listener makes the speaker feel appreciated and respected, which is particularly important in relationships where communication skills are essential. Listening skills also prevent misunderstandings, assumptions or ill-informed responses which could lead to confrontation, also particularly important in relationships.
Negative body language can unintentionally make the speaker feel that you are not listening or are not interested in the conversation. Use positive body language, such as facing the speaker and ignoring external distractions, like the television or the hands moving on your watch. Nodding at intervals while someone is speaking or keeping eye contact also assures the speaker you are paying attention and helps keep your own listening focused.
Concentrate on the speaker and avoid internal distractions as well as the external. Rather than daydreaming or zoning out to a completely different topic, try to focus on the conversation; reflect back upon what has been said by repeating key phrases or words to demonstrate you are listening and to keep yourself aware of the conversation. If you feel your concentration drift from the speaker, rearrange your seating position or perform some other menial task and direct your focus back to the speaker by making eye contact.
Respond In Turn
Respond appropriately to the conversation. Allow the speaker to finish talking first and listen intently to what has been said; do not concentrate on what you will say next until the speaker has finished. Listen for main ideas during a conversation, particularly those that reveal the speaker's own opinion, such as "I think that...." Before responding to the speaker, process the conversation and take time to respond appropriately.
Engage in the conversation to show the speaker you are listening and to keep your mind from becoming distracted by internal or external distractions. Ask questions when the speaker is finished to clarify anything from the conversation and summarize particular parts of the conversation before responding to help pick out key ideas of the conversation, rather than trying to process a large chunk of information. Respond appropriately to the subject of the conversation and try not to bring yourself and your own experiences -- unless they are relevant -- into the conversation too much.
Try to be unbiased during a conversation and do not judge the speaker. Becoming angry or defensive about a certain point you do not agree with will cloud your ability to listen and respond to the conversation. Keep an open mind and allow the speaker to finish before you disagree, as you may hear some information that supports the speaker's argument and changes your opinion of the topic.
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