Social Skills – The Art of Listening – Business & Social Etiquette Blog

One of the most important factors of good social skills is the art of listening. It is seldom good practice to interrupt others which gives the impression that you think you are more important than the speaker and not interested in hearing to what they have to say. This gives the impression you think you know better than they do. You may wish to interrupt because you are impatient, bored, nervous or you want to look knowledgeable.

Hold back unless you are invited to help out with a word or when the speaker pauses giving space for your input.

Give the other person your full attention and avoid being distracted by what is going on around you.  Don’t look around the room or check your watch or acknowledge people as they walk by.

These behaviours are unacceptable and give the message that you are not interested in the speaker.

Even if the other person is not looking at you, hold your gaze steady, looking away occasionally when appropriate. When the other person is talking, nod your head saying “Yes” “No” or smiling if appropriate. It is very disconcerting when in a conversation if the listener just looks at you without nodding or smiling.

Try to avoid in most situations mentally preparing what you are going to say next as this prevents you from really listening to what is being said.

Ask questions appropriately to show that you are following  the speaker’s train of thought. For instance: “Are you saying……?”   “I take it that you mean…….?” “That sounds exciting…”  Never change the subject when a person is talking until that conversation is finished.

If you have not understood what is being said, or the meaning behind it, ask. Just say, “I have not understood that” or “Could you say a bit more I am not sure I understand…”  This question shows you are interested in what the other person is saying and helps you to gain a better understanding of what is being said. You can then follow up with open-ended questions and keep the conversation rolling along.

If appropriate do not be frightened to question the speaker’s emotions. For instance, “You seem very angry about that” or “You look upset as you’re talking.” Never do this if it is likely to invite the speaker to show their emotions inappropriately – for instance in an open plan office, a restaurant or on the street.

About the author

Ellen is our Business & Social Etiquette Blogger. You can reach Ellen on: Etiquette and Manners, Facebook, Linked In

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