As a general rule, being a good listener will do more for you than being a good talker. One key to effective listening is using reflective, or mirroring statements.
Suppose you call your credit card company to dispute a charge. The customer service rep does not immediately say, “We apologize for our mistake, as we are clearly in the wrong!” Neither does he say, “You are a fraud and a liar with a spending problem!” A good customer service rep first reflects the nature of your problem, and from your point-of-view. It sounds like your bill shows a charge for a top hat purchased in Belgium, but you’re saying you’ve never even been to Belgium, is that right? The rep reflects your issue without interpreting it, without offering advice, without mentioning his own previous trip to Belgium.
Active listening requires that you listen without interrupting, either with voice or body language. When the other person pauses, you reflect, in your own words, the content she is communicating. It’s easier than you want to make it. This is a good reflective statement: It sounds like your boss is a real challenge. This is not a good reflective statement: You should quit your job immediately! Active listening is about listening, not “solving.”
You can also use your body posture and facial expressions to show interest and support. Nod, smile, lean in closer. Engage your body in the listening, just not in a way that distracts from the person talking. Active listening requires you to be genuinely present in the moment rather than waiting for your turn to speak or thinking about something else.