Three Steps To Improving the Way You Listen: Key Communication Skills

Do you know someone who thinks they're a great communicator but who drives you crazy? Maybe he has a fund of stories that he rolls out at every opportunity, whether you've heard them before or not. 

Or maybe he caps every remark you make with one of his own. You know how it goes. You say, "I broke my foot," and he says, "I did that last year and the doctor said it was the worst fracture he ever saw."

A teenager I know started at a new school so she had to catch a different bus in the morning.The first day, she came home full of enthusiasm for a new friend.
"He's so funny," she said. "We just laughed all the way. I nearly fell off my seat."

I bet you can guess how she felt after two weeks. 
"I'm hoping he won't be on the bus today," she said. "He never shuts up and it's all about himself."

Yes, you may be more shy, less extrovert, more self-conscious than others: but chances are you're a better communicator if you take the time to listen instead of talking. 

Here's how to do it in three easy steps:

1 Make sure you really understand what someone is saying to you. Ask questions to keep yourself focused on him. "What happened next?" or "Why do you think that happened?" Who/what/when/how/where/why questions are a great way to keep the conversation going. 

2 Check back with him that you've understood. "So you didn't enjoy the day at the sea?" 

3 Watch his body language. If he's looking down, or out of the window, he may be really upset. If he's leaning back and smiling, things are OK. Be sensitive to his mood: his dating disaster may sound funny to you but if he's devastated, it's cruel to laugh.

TOP TIP You can help change  his mood if he's miserable. Get him to look up at you and he'll  feel a little better. We don't say "chin up" for nothing. (Don't say "chin up" by the way. It's annoying. Just stand back so he looks up at you. That's subtle.)

Got more top tips on listening? I love to hear them. Just leave a comment and spread the word.

Want to know more about communication skills ? Try these posts:


How to Make a Good Impression

How to Learn to Speak the Same Language

The Secret of Using All Your Five Senses

How to See Things From His Point of View

How to Avoid the Unscrupulous Salesman’s Language Traps

How to Banish Guilt Through Positive Thinking

How to Get Agreement with Communication Skills


I write this Communication Blog

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Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.

I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.

I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.