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Interpersonal Skills Mastery To Open Doors To Your Future More Easily

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How to Master Active Listening to Improve Interpersonal Skills

July 02, 202311 min read

Once, in a kingdom, there was a magical mirror that could speak the truth. It reflected not only physical appearance but also the inner thoughts and emotions of the person standing before it. The mirror taught the people the value of listening—to truly understand themselves and others, they had to listen not only to the spoken words but also to the unspoken truths that lie within.

Moral: Listening goes beyond hearing words; it involves perceiving emotions, understanding unspoken messages, and empathizing with others.

In today's world, it's important to be able to have strong interpersonal skills. One of the most important interpersonal skill to develop is your ability to listen. Here are seven ways you can improve your active listening skills.

What is active listening?

To improve your communication skills, you need to let the other person know that you are paying attention to what they're saying.

Listening is an important skill, and it's something that can be learned. If you've ever found yourself wondering if the other person was listening to you, then you know how important it is to focus on what they're saying.

Active listening is an essential skill for developing strong interpersonal relationships. It is a communication technique that involves closely listening to what someone is saying to gain a better understanding of their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The goal of active listening is to ensure that the speaker feels heard, understood, and respected.

Active listening involves more than just hearing the words that someone is saying; it requires actively engaging with the speaker. It’s important to pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and other non-verbal cues as well as the words that are being spoken. A successful active listener also takes time to reflect on what the speaker has said and ask questions to gain further clarification and understanding.

To become an effective active listener, there are certain techniques that can be employed. This includes presencing yourself, focusing on the speaker's intention (attunement), repeating back what has been said to ensure understanding, and providing verbal and non-verbal feedback. It’s also important to avoid making assumptions and jumping to conclusions, as this can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Practicing active listening in different scenarios is key to mastering the skill. This can include conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers. With enough practice, it is possible to become a skilled active listener and make strong interpersonal connections.

For those looking to further improve their active listening skills, attending workshops or classes is a great way to continue learning. I regularly coach individuals and business leaders to speed the process as well. (Get an initial FREE Session here) These workshops and classes provide an opportunity to practice active listening in a safe, supportive environment and gain useful feedback from experienced facilitators. Here is a FREE course I create a few years ago to help couples who tend to argue and fight. 

Hear What People Are Really Saying

Hopefully, it's now obvious that active listening is an essential interpersonal skill that can help you build stronger relationships. It involves actively paying attention to what the other person is saying, both verbally and nonverbally, and responding in a way that shows you understand them. It also involves you paying attention to how your body is responding.

Most of the time what you are hearing is pinging off of our unconscious memory system. If any of your unconscious memories are loaded with traumatic responses to life they will get activated. When you are consciously aware that you are getting triggered and you can tell it's associated with a past experience, you can immediately pull the plug on a less than ideal response. By mastering this skill, you can improve your communication and make sure that your conversations are productive and you sustain safety in the conversation.

The first step to becoming an active listener is to pay attention to nonverbal cues. This includes body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Nonverbal cues can provide valuable information about how the other person is feeling and what they’re trying to convey. By being aware of these cues, you’ll have a better understanding of the situation and be better equipped to respond appropriately.

When actively listening, it’s important to give the speaker your full attention. This means putting away distractions like your phone and focusing solely on the conversation. It also means avoiding the urge to jump in with your own thoughts and opinions before the other person has finished speaking.

Asking clarifying questions can be a great way to make sure that you really understand what the speaker is trying to say. Doing so, shows them that you’re actively engaged in the conversation and that you’re interested in their perspective.

Finally, it’s important to develop empathy for the speaker’s feelings and wants. This means trying to put yourself in their shoes and seeing things from their point of view. It can help you better understand the situation and come up with a solution that meets everyone’s needs.

By mastering active listening, and monitoring your responses, you can become a better communicator and strengthen your relationships. Pay attention to nonverbal cues, give the speaker your full attention, ask clarifying questions, and develop empathy for their feelings and wants. With a little practice, you’ll be an active listener in no time!

Attention To Attunement

Attention to attunement is one of the key elements of active listening. This means paying close attention to the speaker’s body language and tone of voice.

  • Are they speaking quickly or slowly?

  • Are their arms crossed or open?

  • Are their facial expressions conveying a message of interest or impatience?

All of these clues can give you an insight into the speaker’s state of mind and help you to actively listen and to get clarification when needed.

Asking questions is another great way to show you’re listening and to deepen the conversation. This lets the speaker know you’re interested in their story and encourages them to open up more. It’s also a great way to get more information and gain further insight into the speaker’s thoughts and feelings.

Reflecting back what you hear is a great way to ensure understanding. This involves summarizing what the speaker has said and repeating it back to them. It shows the speaker that you’ve been listening and that you’re interested in what they’ve said.

Like we've said, responding with empathy and seeking to understand is an important part of active listening. This involves acknowledging the speaker’s feelings and expressing sympathy when needed and understanding. This helps to build trust, connection, and rapport with the speaker, and is an invaluable tool for improving interpersonal skills.

By mastering active listening, you can improve not just your interpersonal skills but also the relationships you have with those around you. Pay attention to the speaker’s body language and tone of voice, ask questions, reflect back what you hear, and respond with empathy and understanding. All of these elements will help you to become a better listener, and a better communicator.

Show That You're Listening Using Cues

Listening Cues is another essential skill for any interpersonal encounter. To be effective, you must listen to the speaker attentively, understand their message, and respond in a way that shows you care. To help you become an active listener, use cues to indicate that you are paying attention.

One way to demonstrate active listening is to pay attention to the speaker’s body language and facial expressions. Doing so can help you pick up on any signs of discomfort or confusion. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to ask clarifying questions to make sure you fully understand what the speaker is trying to say. Especially during conflict, you will want to name out loud what your experience is and how it's affecting you in a non-judgmental way.

Another way to ensure that you are actively listening is to paraphrase what the speaker has said. This is a great tool for checking your understanding and making sure that you have heard the speaker correctly. It also lets the speaker know that you have been paying attention and that their words have been heard.

Finally, it is important to make sure you are giving the speaker your full attention. You can demonstrate this by staying focused on the person. It is also important to maintain eye contact and focus on the speaker. When your eyes wander, you lose attunement. When you say things that are out of touch with what the speakers core message is you are out of attunement. Doing so will help you to stay in the moment and give the speaker the respect they expect.

By using these cues to demonstrate active listening, you can become a more effective communicator and master your interpersonal skills.

Provide Feedback Using Reflection and Curiosity

One of the key components of active listening is providing feedback during the conversation. Feedback should be given using reflection statements to confirm understanding. These statements help to show that you understand what is being said, and that you value the conversation.

Reflection statements are typically short and simple, and they involve repeating back what was said in order to confirm your understanding. It will sound like, "So what I think you are needing is...is that accurate?"

Another aspect of active listening is developing your curiosity. Asking questions that show interest in the conversation can help to create a deeper connection between you and the other person. Questions should be open-ended, allowing the other person to provide a more meaningful answer. For example, "Can you say more about that?" or "So what I'm hearing you say is...and I think that means...is that accurate?"

Take the time to practice and hone your active listening skills. Use reflection statements to confirm understanding, and develop your curiosity by asking meaningful questions. With practice, you can become an expert active listener and enjoy the benefits that come from improved communication in your relationships.

Suspend Any Judgment - Ask Questions Instead

To master active listening, it is important to suspend any judgment and take the time to truly understand the other person’s perspective.

Rather than immediately jumping to conclusions or forming judgments, ask open-ended questions. Not only will this allow for a more meaningful conversations, but it will also give you the opportunity to gain important insights that you may have otherwise missed. This can be especially helpful when discussing difficult topics that require an understanding of the other person’s thoughts and feelings.

By learning to use empathetic listening, you can cultivate deeper relationships and build a strong foundation of understanding with others. This can help you to build a better rapport with the people you interact with and further enhance your interpersonal skills.

Taking the time to actively listen to others can also help you to gain a better understanding of their needs and make more meaningful connections.

By suspending any judgment and taking the time to actively listen to others, you can improve your interpersonal skills and foster better relationships. 

Look For Closure and Needs Getting Met or Not

Before you wrap up the conversation there are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are your needs getting met?

  • Do you feel complete?

  • Is the others person's needs getting met?

  • Does the conversation seem complete?

By asking yourself these questions, you are tidying up the conversation and bringing any loose ends together to get closure.

Most people are not tracking the sequence of what was just discussed very well. That can cause overwhelm. When a person get's overwhelmed, they will forget things and lose track of goals and even if their needs got met. 

Only when they are calm will they suddenly realize they forgot to ask some things or realize they agreed to something they may not have really wanted to agree to. You want to prevent this if possible.

It's a good idea, at the end of any conversation, especially when agreements are being made, to summarize and sequence your understanding. Do it such a way you are expecting some kind of feedback from the other person. An example would sound like, "So my understanding so far is..."

Benefits of Mastering Active Listening

The most important benefit of mastering active listening is that it can lead to a better relationship between two people. It minimizes conflict.

When someone listens actively, they are paying close attention to what the other person is saying and displaying non-verbal cues that show they are engaged in the conversation.

This level of attunement helps create an environment of trust and understanding, which can help foster a stronger relationship overall. It is also beneficial because it allows both parties to really get to know each other on a deeper level, which ultimately leads to increased empathy, connection, and life satisfaction.

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Ed Ferrigan, M.A., CPCC, SEP

Working with Ed, you’ll get a clear focus on what you are wanting, gain permanent skills to identify and remove any limiting beliefs and heal any potential trauma from that past (most people have no idea this is an issue). He will make the process simple to understand so you can make more conscious choices in the future that create the results you are wanting. Ed lives in Durango, CO and is fond of most outdoor activities including photography, fly-fishing, hiking and camping. Ed is also an avid dancer and has an affinity to West Coast Swing.

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