Active listening is an important business practice for both entrepreneurs and employees. Research shows that people pay attention to 25 to 50 percent of what other people say, so for most people there is plenty of potential to improve communication skills.
To improve active listening focus on what other people say and maintain eye contact. Use smiling, nodding, and other expressions to encourage people to keep talking. Paraphrase, ask clarifying questions, and summarize their key points to promote an engaging conversation. Combine asking open ended questions with attentive listening to keep the conversation flowing. It’s important to put aside distracting thoughts while listening and to be aware of your setting. For example, if you’re at a noisy networking event book a follow-up meeting to discuss your questions later.
If you’re meeting people for the first time be honest about the reason you’d like to get know them, and if you’re having a conversation regarding their area of expertise speak less and listen more. There is no point in asking a question and then debating how you would do things different. There is a saying that it’s better to win through your actions and never through an argument, take the information that you need and discard the rest.
Lastly, if you’re having a conversation with someone and you don’t like what they’re saying avoid giving and immediate response. If you have a knee jerk way your response could be more emotional than rational.