In an age where you can live in your own little smartphone bubble even in a crowded room, listening can be a difficult skill to pick up or maintain. Sure, you might be hearing the words that your friend or partner is saying. But are you able to think critically about their thoughts and ideas, and engage with them on a less superficial level? Now more than ever we could all use a little re-education on how to be thoughtful and active listeners.

Put Your Phone Down

It’s pretty obvious that if you’re doing something on your phone then you’re not giving the other person your full attention. Beyond that, though, you’re also failing to make eye contact.

Let Them Finish

It’s easy to be impatient while someone finishes what they have to say. Don’t assume you know how their thought ends and go interrupting.

Avoid Leading Questions

We’ve all heard a TV therapist ask, “And how did that make you feel?” As cheesy at it may sound, try to avoid putting your feelings on the other person before they’re had a chance to process their own.

Keep An Open Mind

Try to avoid the carelessly thrown out judgmental comments. You don’t have to agree with them on everything they say, but being a good listener means being willing to withhold some comments.

Repeat

An old trick, but a good one. When you repeat something back to the speaker in your own words, you’re showing them that you heard and understood.

Hold Off On Solutions

While you’re keeping your judgments to yourself (for now) you may also want to pause before immediately offering solutions. Sometimes the other person doesn’t want or need them. If you’re unsure, simply ask.

Imagine the Situation They’re Describing

Try to really paint a mental picture of the event a person is talking about to help you stay engaged with the conversation.

Wait for the Pause

The person you’re talking with will likely find some natural pauses in what they’re describing or discussing. Wait for one of those to interject.

Avoid Changing the Subject

You may be tempted to ask questions related to the topic, but try to avoid ones that completely derail it.

Watch Their Body Language

So much of what we communicate is through nonverbal cues. If you’re paying attention, you may be able to pick up on them more easily.