Active Listening
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In this Explearning Communications lesson, I teach you why active listening is important and how to improve your listening skills. Becoming a better communicator is one of the benefits of active listening. If you want to improve your communication skills, it starts with active listening.

Many people think that to improve their communication skills they need to get better at speaking. But what they do not realize is that they also need to get better at listening. Let’s talk about why active listening matters and how that’ll get you to become a better communicator!  

Why is active listening important?

Active listening can build rapport, get someone to trust you, get someone to open up to you. You want to be the person who cares. You want to be known among your friends, colleagues, and family as a good communicator. 

Think back to a time when you were in a conversation with someone who was clearly checked out. How did that make you feel? Or perhaps, you can recall a time when you weren’t listening to the speaker in the conversation. Maybe you were thinking about a similar experience you’ve had to the speaker. Maybe you were trying to prepare in your mind what you would say next in the conversation. Or maybe, you were so zoned out, daydreaming about a tropical vacation on some white-sanded turquoise-watered beach that you were obviously the bad listener. You definitely don’t want to be that person and you certainly don’t want to have a conversation with that person. 

How does active listening make you a better conversationalist and increase your interpersonal communication skills?

a)    You learn something 

The truth of the matter is that everyone no matter who young or old can teach you something. Be ready for that. Expect it. Listen for it. Because, if you do, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

b)    You notice not only what the speaker is saying but how they are saying it

You might like the way the speaker uses their facial expressions, hand movements or the way they use their tone of voice. Picking up on their communication elements (what you like about their style of speaking) can help you become a better conversationalist and communicator. Pay attention to not only what is being said, but delivery. 

c)    You build rapport with the person 

If you want to be invited for coffee or out to lunch (pretexts for having a good conversation), then you should strive to be a good conversationalist and better communicator. How? By being an active listener. By showing interest during conversation, the speaker will want to keep spending time for you and invite you back for more fun times. When you listen and tap into the other person’s emotions, your emotional intelligence expands as well. 

Here are my 8 active listening strategies that’ll ramp up your interpersonal comm skills:

(How to show your actively listening😊)

1.    Lean in 

The physical act of leaning in helps focus you on the conversation and what the speaker is saying. It also demonstrates to the speaker that you care and are invested, which will give a big confidence boost to the speaker but also leave a positive impression of you. So lean in, physically and mentally. 

2.    Nodding and smiling 

Try to nod and smile every so often. This is a simple and effective non-verbal cue to show you’re actively participating in the conversation. Using the triple-nod (nodding three times) is proven to encourage the speaker to speak up to four times longer than they would have if you did not triple-nod! 

3.    Maintain eye contact

Eye contact is essential because it tells the speaker “I see you, I care about you, tell me more.” The easiest way to tell if people are listening to you is through eye contact or lack thereof. So the speaker will be searching for your eyes, give them the privilege of letting them in. Again, their respect and opinion of you (read: trustworthiness) will increase if you can maintain eye contact. 

4.    No interrupting!

As tempting as it may be, do not interrupt. You don’t want to prevent the speaker’s train of thought. Sometimes, for overzealous active listeners, this can be a problem because they think they are participating but they’re actually impeding the speaker’s communication. I understand that you want to get your turn to speak but be patient. And allow for silence – don’t be afraid of gaps in conversation. People need thinking time. Wait a bit before chiming in because the speaker might have one last point to make before giving up the floor. 

  5.   Discourse Markers

It is okay to use fillers to show active listening. You can also have a few short phrases (e.g. Right, I see, oh that makes sense, etc) in your back pocket. These are easy ways to demonstrate that you are on the same page. I do caution that if you do use fillers and phrases like these to make sure you are sincere and that you are actually listening. Bad listeners think they can get away with throwing a filler out there without even hearing the person…but they’re not fooling anyone. So do it with sincerity. 

6.    Raising your eyebrows 

When you raise your eyebrows, you signal “Oh, how interesting. I’m curious to know more.” When a speaker sees their listeners raise their brows they subconsciously get egged on because they see you are curious and interested. They will be pleased to have such engaged conversation partners.

7.    Asking questions

A great way to show you’re actively listening and not pretending to listen is by asking questions. You can ask follow-up and/or clarification questions. Just be sure that you’ve listened instead of formulating the question in your head because the speaker might call you out with “I just said that” or “Weren’t you listening to me?” and you don’t want that to happen. And don’t ask a question just to ask a question. Just let it sprout up organically in the conversation. If not, then maybe next time. 

8.    Paraphrasing

Lastly, paraphrasing the speaker is a surefire way of actively listening and making it known to your speaker. Be careful not to copy verbatim what the speaker said, or even worse, put words in their mouth. But do try and reformulate the concept in your own words. Doing this will demonstrate that (1) you’ve been paying attention (2) you’re up to speed on the story and there are no gaps in your understanding. Paraphrasing is particularly useful to the speaker and listener(s) in the conversation when the speaker has held the floor for quite a while, maybe because they’re telling a story. So, if you’re listening to a story or a soliloquy you’ll want to paraphrase. 

Start weaving in these active listening strategies into your next conversation and notice how you’ll be more engaged and interested.  Your conversation partner will notice and want to speak with you more often. This skill will make you a better interpersonal communicator and conversationalist. Give it a try!

Happy Explearning 🌠

About the Author and the Explearning Academy:

Mary Daphne is an expert in communication, executive interpersonal skills, and personal development. She is the founder of the Explearning Academy, a platform dedicated to helping individuals enhance their social fluency, boost their careers, and elevate their social game. Through immersive group coaching programs like the Executive Communication Lab and self-guided journeys, participants gain the social superpowers and career catapults they've been searching for. If you're ready to take your negotiation skills to the next level and connect with like-minded individuals, visit and explore the various plans available. Join the Explearning Academy community and unlock your full potential.

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