Perhaps the most important social skill that we can practice is the act of listening; specifically, listening well and actively. I think this is true in our personal and professional lives. Being able to listen well and really hear what others are saying is an essential skill for healthy relationships. So, seeking to improve our listening skills is a worthwhile venture.
Listening well is active and is not always easy. Good listening consists of focused attention and thoughtful body language such as eye contact and facial expressions. Good listening also requires reflective comments that help you as the listener to understand what is being said and ensures the speakers that you are being attentive. Reflective comments include summarizing or paraphrasing what was said to you in your own words or asking good follow up questions.
I find listening well to be a difficult task at times when I am having a lively conversation and have a lot to say. I have to remind myself to not think about what I am going to say next, but how I can truly listen to what the person is saying and reflect on it. Conversations like this are when good listening becomes most important. Practicing to focus all of our attention on what our family member, friend, or colleague is saying takes work and energy, but has many rewards.