Keep your communications clear by considering your body language and how you can demonstrate active listening
Showing attentiveness to a conversation lets people feel heard, and can open up the door for more meaningful interactions, showing the person you’re engaging with that you’re receptive to what they’re saying.
There are some behaviours you’ll probably be doing naturally, but when we gain awareness of the signals of active listening, we can make a conscious effort to instil them in our communications.
1. Face the person speaking.
By turning towards your conversation partner, you’re clearly displaying that they have your full attention. It could also signify a willingness to be vulnerable, as we’re presenting our chest (and in turn our heart), which might be seen as a symbolic gesture of opening ourselves up.
2. Get closer.
Yes, we’re talking literally. Your physical proximity to each other in a conversation, and in particular leaning forwards, shows your interest and engagement in the discussion. Leaning back could signal that you’re distancing yourself from the chat, so try to proactively lean in where you can.
3. Clear the space between you.
In a practical sense, ensure there are no objects obscuring your view of each other, and in a metaphorical way, keep your arms relaxed and to your side where possible – crossed arms can signify a disinterest in the conversation, or an unwillingness to open up. So try to be aware of how your body is positioned to demonstrate your willing participation.
4. Give encouragement.
This could be in the form of nodding your head to show you’re listening and taking on board what they’re saying, or using facial expressions to react without interrupting them, or small remarks such as ‘yes’ and ‘OK’ which won’t disrupt their flow, but give them confidence that what they’re saying is being heard and processed.
5. Maintain eye contact.
It’s been reported that keeping your eyes focused on each other for 60–70% of the time someone is speaking helps provide the best balance for good rapport. So, next time you’re chatting, keep those eyes locked, and be present.