The best people listen with empathy. Start by keeping a mindful watch on how you feel at the end of each conversation. Did you feel heard?
Gave undivided attention
This is a no brainer. The foremost thing is to offer their time. By showing that they are fully present in the conversation they set the mood. They convey that there is nothing else more important. It encourages conversations to flow in directions that otherwise would not.
Did not trivialize issues
Conversations should not repeatedly feel like a “my issues are worse than yours” competition. We have all been in those conversations where one party is trying to hog attention. Empathetic listeners are patient, they are happy to let you drive the conversation and know when to do the talking. If you find yourself in conversations where you are doing most of the talking and the other party is happy to let you, it’s an indication that you are being a bad listener. Unless they’re being paid to listen, never assume that the other party has nothing to say. It’s more likely that you have not brought the conversation to a point where they are feeling comfortable expressing.
Did not rush their points in
Oftentimes we are in conversations where the other party is just waiting for you to finish so they can get their point in. They are trying to listen actively but in their head they’re going over what they want to say as soon as you’re done talking. They are just waiting because it’s rude to interrupt. It gives the impression that they are listening. Look for people who take time to structure their thoughts after you’re done talking.
Did not try to get a rise out of you
Even the introverts and loners need some degree of human interaction. Watch for people who are trying to entertain themselves by evoking emotional responses. They are not mindful about topics that you may be sensitive towards. They prey on your insecurities and make you feel small. There is a constructive way to talk about someone’s insecurities, if done the right way it builds character and nourishes them.
Assured their understanding
The obvious cues are nodding, maintaining eye contact, the hmms. Unfortunately, these are the easiest to feign. The best listeners show their understanding even after the conversation has ended. They reference things you said in previous conversations. They show it in their actions somehow. You hear from them something along the lines of “You were talking about whatever, here’s something I came across that I thought might interest you”. Your conversations have a long arc and a short arc.