Being a good listener is an important skill to have no matter where you work. Whether you are a web designer, project manager or teacher, strong communication skills are key to your success. The funny thing is most of us probably think we are good listeners, even though in reality it’s probably something we could all improve upon. Think about the last time you had an unhappy customer. Why were they unhappy? More often than not, the source of the problem can be traced back to a miscommunication. So, putting forth some effort to improve your listening skills is well worth it. Below are four ways to become a better listener. None of these tips are things you haven’t heard of or thought about before, but many of us forget to do them:

1. Maintain eye contact, nod and smile – This type of body language is reassuring and makes the speaker feel like they are really being heard.

2. Pay attention to body language – Not only should you consider your own body language, but you should be mindful of the body language of the person speaking. They may not feel comfortable speaking their mind but their body language will speak volumes. People will touch their face or neck when they are uncomfortable and they will avoid eye contact. That may be your cue to reassure them to speak freely or ask more in depth questions to encourage them to elaborate on how they are feeling.

3. Really listen – Often, people think they are listening but they are really just thinking about how they are going to respond. Good listening isn’t just about waiting for your turn to talk. So make a conscience effort to really focus on what the other person is saying. You will probably find that you are better able to respond appropriately if you really hear everything they say.

4. Recap – When you respond, quickly summarize what the customer has said in one or two sentences. They will know you are listening and it will clear up any misunderstandings in case you interpret their words differently than they meant them. In business situations, sending a recap email after meetings also really helps. That way you can feel confident moving forward knowing you are both on the same page.

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