Did you hear what that last person really told you? I mean, were you really listening?  Within any conversation, you should focus on listening to—not just hearing—what the other person is truly communicating.

A lot can be missed when we don’t listen. This can lead to escalated conflict or misunderstandings. Not listening can create a large fire to then contain or put out. Fire prevention has taught us to “stop, drop and roll.” A similar phrase can be implemented to help you listen better: stop, drop (your phone) and listen.

Stop

Stop what you are doing and physically acknowledge the other person. This may mean turning your body toward the other or making direct eye contact. And it’s more than just stopping your body. It also means stopping your mind from preparing your next comment, retort, or interruption for more information or correction. Additionally, stop yourself from being distracted by what is going on around you or trying to overhear the conversations happening next to you. It may mean you physically stop and say, “I’m sorry. I got distracted for a minute. Can you repeat that last part?”

Drop (your phone)

Yes. You heard that correctly. Putting down your phone can be a challenge. I mean who isn’t connected to their phone or jumping when that custom alert lets you know that important person is trying to communicate with you? Guess what? That person right next to you wants to communicate with you as well. Take the time to put down your phone during conversations and interact with the people right there at that very moment. The rest of the world and your alerts can wait.

Listen

Did you know there is a difference between passive listening and active listening? That’s right. Passive listening is listening and that’s it. You don’t interrupt with your thoughts or comments. You don’t do anything else. You simply hear what is being said.  Active listening, on the other hand, involves working to effectively understand the other person and what they are sharing. It includes more than just the words they are speaking. It means being aware of your nonverbal cues and reactions such as agreeing or disagreeing with head movements and facial expressions. It also means you actively summarize back to the speaker what you just heard. This often gives the opportunity to ensure you heard and they explained correctly. It also means paying attention to the speaker’s nonverbal language and vocal tones. This becomes a continual process throughout the conversation.

So again, were you really listening in that last conversation? If you weren’t, try adding one of these tips into your listening process. And then after the conversation consider how it changed your interaction.

These tips are helpful whether you are talking with a friend, a spouse, a child, an employee or an employer. Regardless of the social situation, they will benefit you the next time you find yourself in a conversation.