How to at least Look Like You’re Listening

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Have you ever been speaking only to witness your counterpart carelessly showing signs of boredom or disinterest? It’s disheartening and downright disrespectful, right?! You’ll likely remember this experience, and perhaps view them less fondly in the future. What a pity.  Have you ever considered others might think this of you?! In virtual environments like Zoom, it is my experience that the default of most people is to look like they’re not even listening. It’s straight-up self-sabotage! So, in this blog I’ll be covering how to at least look like you’re listening.

It all starts with movement, as static pictures aren’t a very good symbol for engagement. When you’re sat upon a chair, in front of a screen, with only your head and shoulders in sight, you’re bound to look pretty static. So, what you need to do is nod your head. A movement as subtle as this, unobtrusively reassures the speaker that you’re sharing the present moment with them, and engaged, rather than just passively letting their words pass you by! Take care not to throw your head around in a startling or jerking way, and certainly don’t nod backwards like you’re John Travolta from Grease or you might send mixed signals (whoops!). A simple hinge from the neck at a natural and flowing pace is all you need. But there’s more where that came from!

Nothing gives away boredom like a person’s eyes. So, what can we do about that? Well, did you know that there’s actually a recommended blinking rate which will prevent you from appearing psycho (from not enough blinks) or irritating (too many)? Once every 4 seconds! Be sure to practice this right now to get a feel for it. You can do this in the mirror or on your selfie camera, just do it! Another tip with the eyes is to maintain a soft focus. What’s this mean? Simply unfurrow and relax your eyebrows. It will put you and your speaker at ease.

It seems silly, but I have to ask… Do you smile when you listen? While you might jump to say “yes!” my experience in giving countless keynotes and coaching to people over Zoom and in conference halls says otherwise. It’s rather a common default to seal the mouth shut. But by doing this, you’re not sharing your air and thus create a mood of defensiveness. You will get picked up on this. So, have your mouth slightly open, unclench that jaw and simply hold a pleasant, resting smile. Your speaker will truly appreciate you for it, not only does it reassure them and prompt them to imitate you because smiling is quite contagious, but you’ll also keep a clear throat and open airway for smoother communication when your time comes to say your piece.

So, let’s recap and send you on your merry way! To look like you’re listening, we must: nod with our heads, hold a soft focus with our eyes and blink once every 4 seconds! Or as I like to put it… Nod, blink and smile like an idiot! Now go out there and practice this in every Zoom call and conversation from now on! Your career and relationships will thank you for it, and when those all-important moments to speak your truth come to be, you’ll have set a perfect example for all of your listeners to follow!


Thank you for reading my blog, and for more tips, techniques, coaching and keynotes from me on how to build more presence and influence in your communications, look no further than my website and social media channels! Have a wonderful day! 

Dr. Louise Mahler

Dr. Louise Mahler

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About Me

Dr Louise Mahler is a body language expert. With a focus on study of the mind-body relationship and business applications; providing practical inspiring improvement to global leaders.

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