Asking open-ended questions

Being a good listener requires open-mindedness, patience, and discipline. Many well-intentioned listeners try to maximize specific follow-up questions to show that they're paying attention, but that's overly simplistic and unfortunately insufficient. In fact, when done poorly, this rapid fire questioning can feel more like an interrogation (albeit friendlier) than a conversation and is unlikely to strengthen a relationship.

Good listeners avoid selective listening and seek to discern what people actually have on their minds, even if respondents don't say so explicitly. Open-ended questions give people an opportunity to share what they're really thinking about. The key is to be patient enough not to feel compelled to break an awkward silence. Many people asking questions get stuck listening for specific types of answers and may inadvertently miss key nuances in how the person they're speaking with chooses to interpret their questions.