Narrator: If you're already using some active listening in your conversations, then you might be ready to advance your skills with this video.

During a conversation you probably already say things like mm-hmm, uh-huh, yeah, and right. You probably know to make eye contact, smile, and nod occasionally while you're listening, too.

There are many other ways to show you are actively listening and help a conversation continue. These include showing interest, repeating key words, and asking follow-up questions.

You can show interest with more emotional comments: "really?" or "wow!" can show you're surprised or impressed. "Oh, no" or "sorry to hear that" can show you empathy with the speaker. "Interesting" is another simple way to show you want to hear more. Here's an example of someone showing interest in a conversation. 

Student 1: I have a funny story to tell you about my roommate. 

Student 2: (gasp) Really?

Narrator: You can also repeat key words to get the speaker to say more about the topic. 

Student 1: I spent my summer vacation volunteering in France.

Student 3: France? What did you do there? 

Narrator: Finally you can ask follow-up questions without repeating key words. What more do you want to know?

Some ideas are:

  • What happened?
  • What did you do?
  • What was it like?
  • How was it?

If you ask questions, the other person will continue the conversation by answering them and know that you are interested in talking more.

Now it's possible that the other person might not seem interested in talking with you. Maybe she isn't showing interest. Maybe he isn't repeating key words or asking questions. Maybe they're giving very short answers to your questions, or you just get the feeling that they're bored. If this happens don't get discouraged. The other person might be distracted, busy, tired, stressed out. It's hard to know why, but don't blame yourself. Just politely end the conversation and move on.

Finally, try again in future conversations. Practicing with a variety of people will help you improve your listening and speaking skills, learn more about people, and make more friends. So be brave and keep trying! The next time you make small talk with someone try to show interest, repeat key words, or ask more questions to stay active in the conversation.