In order to teach your students interpersonal awareness, you have to teach them how to listen. Listening is a primary communication activity used by all people and is central to the personal, social and educational and workplace success of every person. One of the best ways to improve interpersonal awareness is to learn how to listen well to others.

Ask your students to reflect on their current listening skills by asking them the following questions:

Do you…

  1. try to understand the other person’s point of view?
  2. fail to hear the other person because you are planning what to say?
  3. think about yourself as the other person talks?
  4. drift in and out of the conversation, listening once in awhile?
  5. lean forward to show the other person you are interested?
  6. criticize, evaluate, or judge what is being said?
  7. misinterpret what is being said?
  8. get tired of paying attention?
  9. keep an open mind?

We will cover the following to help you teach good listening skills to your students:

  1. Listen to understand
  2. Make time for others
  3. Good listening habits

group of friends

Listen to understand

Teach your students to listen to understand. To do this, they must understand the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing refers to the sounds that we hear, where listening requires more than that: it requires focus. Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice and how the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and nonverbal messages.

Make time for others

In a world of rapid change, stress, and economic pressures, it takes a concentrated effort to make time to listen to others. This is something to work on every day. Small improvements will grow to be large changes in behavior over time. People like to be around good listeners. Teach your students to make time for others.

Good listening habits

Here are some good listening habits to have your students practice with one another:

  • Nod occasionally.
  • Smile and use other facial expressions.
  • Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
  • Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments such as “yes” and “I see.”
  • Avoid judgment. Set aside your judgment and criticism in order to fully understand a person. You don’t have to agree with the speaker’s ideas, values or opinions in order to be a good listener for him or her.
  • Respond appropriately. If there is a disconnect, paraphrase by saying “What I’m hearing is…” or “It sounds like you are saying…”. Don’t simply repeat what the speaker has said, though. This can sound insensitive. Ask questions to clarify certain points if needed.
  • Give good feedback. Offer words of encouragement and praise to others. Make other people feel wanted and valued by your feedback.

Thanks for tuning into our series on teaching interpersonal awareness to your students. If you want to learn more about developing or teaching soft skills, sign up for a free soft skills webinar here.