In today’s rushed world, good listening skills can fall to the wayside. Everyone is concerned with only one thing: number one. RELATED: Are Your Listening Skills Your Job Search Problem? However, these bad listening habits that we develop can damage our intelligence, relationships, and reputation. Not to mention, it makes for bad conversation. So, what are some easy ways to train your brain to be a better listener? Check out these easy tips for better listening skills:

1. Be An Active Listener

“If we are conscious of listening actively, our conversation skills improve,” writes Susan RoAne in her book, How To Work A Room: Your Essential Guide To Savvy Socializing. “Working a room will be less work and more fun.” Here are some easy ways to be a more active listener:
  • Make eye contact
  • Smile
  • Occasionally, paraphrase what you’ve heard
  • Ask relevant questions
  • Take notes
  • Be present and give the speaker your full attention

2. Reflect The Speaker’s Emotion

Emotions are very powerful, especially during conversation. If you’re not listening, you might not be getting the whole message behind what’s actually being said. This can make you appear insincere or cold, which can hurt the conversation and/or your relationship with the speaker. Here’s a great example of the difference of physical listening versus emotional listening:

A: "Sorry I'm late. As I was leaving the house, my dog ran into the street and was hit by a car."

B: (reflecting the content): "So your dog got hit by a car?"

A: "Right."

B: "Is he dead?"

A: "Uh-huh."

B: "So what did you do with the dog's body?"

In this example, the listener is getting the information, but not the emotional message behind it. “Reflection of feeling tells your partner not just that he's been heard but that you have ‘plugged into’ his life and experienced it in some way, which is essential to his satisfaction,” says Dr. Phil McGraw in this article. Here’s an example of how the listener can reflect the speaker’s emotion:

A: "Sorry I'm late. As I was leaving the house, my dog ran into the street and got hit by a car."

B: (reflecting the feeling): "Oh, my gosh—you must feel terrible."

A: "Well, I do. We'd had the dog for 12 years, and my kids really loved him."

B: "I'm sure they must be so upset; I'm sorry you're going through this."

“Being able to reflect the feeling, not just the content, is essential to the success of your communication,” says McGraw.

3. Fight The Urge To Think Of Your Response

We all do it. How many times have you forgotten the names of the people you get introduced to? Chances are, it’s because you were so focused on saying your own name that you didn’t even pay attention to what the other person said. Sometimes, we’re just more interested in what we have to say. When you’re talking with someone, do your best to focus on what he or she is saying instead of planning your reply. If you need to, pause for a second and absorb what was said. This will not only help your listening skills, but it will also help you determine the most appropriate answer or reply.

4. Become A ‘Whole Body’ Listener

In her book, The Fine Art Of Small Talk, Debra Fine encourages readers to listen with their ears, eyes, and hearts. “Listening is more than just hearing,” Fine writes. “It’s a level of involvement that goes beyond reciting the contents of the conversation.”

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

As with any skill, learning to listen takes practice. If you’re aware of your poor listening habits, make a conscious effort to sincerely listen to others every day, using the tips above. This post was originally published at an earlier date. Photo Credit: Shutterstock