How do you become an engaged listener?
Focus fully on the speaker. You cannot communicate effectively if you are multitasking. If you’re daydreaming, checking your phone, or thinking about something else, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation. You need to stay focused on the converation. If you find it hard to concentrate on some speakers, try repeating their words back, or over in your head—it will reinforce their message and help you stay focused.
Favor your right ear.
As strange as it sounds, the left side of the brain contains the primary processing centers for both speech comprehension and emotions. Since the left side of the brain is connected to the right side of the body, favoring your right ear can help you better detect the emotional nuances of what someone is saying.
Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns. Say something like, “If you think that’s bad, let me tell you what happened to me,". and whatever happens next is not what the other person was aiming for. Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. You can’t concentrate on what someone’s saying if you’re forming what you’re going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind’s elsewhere.
Show your interest in what's being said. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.”
Set aside judgment.
In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand them. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can lead to an unlikely connection with someone.
If there seems to be misunderstanding between what is being said and how you interpret, reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. "What I'm hearing is," or "Sounds like you are saying," are great ways to reflect back. Don’t simply repeat what the speaker has said verbatim, though—you’ll sound insincere or uninterested. Instead, express what the speaker’s words mean to you. Ask questions to clarify certain points: "What do you mean when you say..." or "Is this what you mean?"