Listening is the most basic advising skill. The elements of listening behavior include eye contact, body language, verbal responses, and vocal tone. Most helpful to advisees are involved advisors who practice active listening skills. Examples of active listening skills for advisors are as follows:
- Appreciate the emotion behind your advisees’ words (voice intonation and body language.)
- Constantly try to check your understanding of what you hear (not hear what you want to hear).
- Do not interrupt your advisees’ sentences.
- Fight off external distractions.
- Take notes (do not trust your memory where certain facts and data are important).
- Let your advisees tell their story first.
- Constantly check to see if your advisees want to comment or respond to what you have previously said to them.
- Relax and try not to give advisees the impression you want to jump right in and talk.
- Establish good eye contact.
- Use affirmative head nods.
- Avoid nervous or bored expressions.
- Ask clarifying or continuing questions (it demonstrates to your advisees that you are involved in what they are saying).
Advisors need to HEAR as well as LISTEN. One way in which advisors can demonstrate that advisees have been heard is by paraphrasing, or restating to advisees what they have said. Along with paraphrasing, advisors need to demonstrate sensitivity to the feelings behind the words by reflecting those feelings back to advisees. Used in combination, paraphrasing and reflecting can ensure more open and caring communication, as well as promote greater understanding between advisors and advisees.
Questioning is a third helping skill advisors need in order to facilitate discussions with advisees. Questions can open new areas for discussion, they can help advisees explore concerns, and they can help identify issues in the discussion.