How to spot if you’re a bad listener (and what you can do to change it!)

You’ve been planning to catch up with your bestie for weeks. But between late nights at work and weekends running from errands to engagement parties, you’ve both been seriously MIA. That is, until tonight. Finally, a long overdue evening of wine, cheese, and a whole lotta chat.

As you both settle in, your gaze drifts off to the table on your right. You spot that luxe pair of Mansur Gavriel heels you’ve been eyeing at Incu for weeks. ‘They’re even more perfect in the flesh’, you think as your mind begins to style potential outfit combinations. ‘I can definitely pull those off at work, maybe I can claim it on tax?’ you ponder, wishfully.

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Suddenly, you feel your bestie’s gaze and realize she’s waiting for a response. You can’t recall what she was speaking about, or what on earth she’s waiting for you to say.

Communication is the key to healthy, thriving relationships. As simple as it seems, listening is one of the most overlooked aspects of effective communication. Let’s explore what red flags to watch out for and how to overcome the most common listening mistakes to foster meaningful connections with your friends and family.

Asking questions and not listening to the answer

Ever feel like your conversations are more like an episode of Q&A? Questions are a fantastic way to delve deeper into a topic, giving you a better insight into a friend’s latest hobby or the plotline of a new binge-worthy TV show.

The issues arise when you, as the questioner, switch off. It’s important to ask questions with the intention of mindfully listening to the answer. A great way to become an active listener is to avoid firing off a thousand dead-end questions, and instead use the speakers’ answer as a springboard to build discussion.

By using questions as thought-starters for larger conversations, you’ll be able to really tune in to what the other speaker is saying and dive deep into meaningful discussions.

Always waiting for your next chance to speak

When we are constantly on the look-out for breaks in conversation to speak, we’re unable to fully immerse ourselves in what the other person is saying. Next time you’re chatting with a good friend, observe where your thoughts are going. Are you actively comprehending what they’re speaking about or planning your next story to share?

Train yourself to stay in the moment by focusing on what the other person is discussing. Try to take note of the details they’re sharing, such as the names of friends or coworkers they’ve mentioned or where they went for dinner last night. This technique will keep you engaged in the conversation and allow you to respond thoughtfully.

Let the conversation flow naturally and move organically from one topic to the next to ensure the speaker feels respected and heard.

Jumping in frequently with advice or personal anecdotes

“That reminds me of the time I…” Sound familiar? We are all guilty of shifting the focus back onto ourselves and unknowingly hijacking conversations. Although we might believe this helps to build a connection, it can often alienate the speaker and make them feel as if we are devaluing their experiences.

Because no one wants to have their break up or a bad day at work compared to someone else’s.

Getting distracted on your phone

There’s nothing worse than sitting across from someone while they leisurely reply to their latest Instagram DMs. Or, worse, check their emails.

Show your loved ones they have your full attention by putting your phone on silent (or better, ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode) and make a pact to keep all phones away from the table. Even the buzz of a notification or sound of an incoming call can be enough to pull us out of the moment and derail deep conversations.

This article originally appeared on A Girl in Progress.

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