“In order to be interesting, you have to be interested.” One of my favorite quotes by Dale Carnegie in his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book was printed in 1936 and the theory still holds true today. Listening is a learned skill that anyone can do but it takes practice. Some are naturally inclined to be better listeners than others. Here are a few simple tips to be the best communicator without saying a word.
1) Make Consistent Eye Contact
The first step is to make consistent eye contact with the person who is speaking. In today’s world it’s really easy to look at our phones when they ding or look over the person’s shoulder for someone more interesting to come by. These signal to the other person that you really don’t care what they have to say. That is hopefully not the case and if you are choosing to spend your time with them, then choose to show them with attentive body language.
2) Ask Open Ended Questions
Ask open ended questions that lead the conversation to a bigger crescendo than yes or no. Most people have a lot to talk about and are generally more interesting than first blush. When you ask open ended questions, it gets them talking and puts them at ease. The other advantage you have is by asking the question, you can direct the conversation to a subject you are interested in and that helps with keeping your attention.
3) Don’t Speak Until It’s Your Turn
Keep your mouth shut until it’s your time to talk. Interrupting someone is typically a rude thing to do. Everyone wants to be heard when they are speaking, so give them that chance. Instead of thinking you know what they are about to say, stop and really listen. It’s amazing how bad we are at guessing what that other person is about to say. It will be reciprocal when it’s your time to talk and if not, then perhaps this is not someone you want to continue “talking to”.
These three things are simple, yet not necessarily easy to do. Listening is a skill and you will improve with time but beware of the listening habits you may already have. Make consistent eye contact, ask open ended questions and wait for your time to speak and you will be well on your way to being a better listener. I have never heard someone say, “That guy/gal is a great listener. I think they are rude.” I have however heard the opposite, because someone is not a great listener. Try to be a great listener and see how interesting you become. You can be the best communicator without saying a word!