Healthy communication is important in helping all of our relationships thrive. In today’s digital world, it can be difficult to connect with people in person. What’s more, interruptions seem to run rampant with how involved we are with social media. Luckily, there are several things you can do to become a better listener, and therefore improve the relationships you have with others.

Limit unnecessary distractions

To become a better listener, it’s important to focus on the conversation at hand. Checking text messages, social media, or email while another person is talking to you is going to directly impede your ability to listen and understand your peers. This can also be pretty offensive and goes for both in-person discussions and phone calls. In addition, the person on the other end of the conversation will likely notice if you aren’t truly listening to what they’re saying. It’s easy to notice when someone isn’t paying attention to you while you talk, and this behavior can easily drive a wedge between friendships, romantic relationships, and even work relationships. If you truly want to listen, put the cell phone away and remove other distractions from your environment.

Cutting out distractions doesn’t only have to be physical. To become a better listener, it’s important to limit the noise going on inside your mind. If someone is speaking to you, focus on what they’re saying. Clear your mind of all other matters – especially what you want to say next. This will help you stay in the present moment and really evaluate what the other person is saying. After all, you aren’t being a good listener if your mind is overly concerned with what you want to say while another person is talking.

The body talks

Another way to become a better listener is to use body language. Whether they know it or not, people naturally respond to body language cues during conversations. Looking someone in the eye, providing a simple head nod, and even leaning in while someone is speaking will send the message that you’re here to listen. When people receive these body language cues, they’ll be more open to talking about the subject of the discussion more in-depth. In addition, they’ll feel more comfortable with you which will provide for a more fluid dialogue. While body language can encourage a positive exchange, it can also create barriers. Crossing your arms, rolling your eyes, and even positioning your body away from your conversation partner sends a loud message: You don’t care. And, let’s be honest, no one wants to talk to someone who is indifferent. By avoiding these types of negative body language, you can help your conversation partner rest assured that you care about what they have to say while you become a better listener in the process.

A judgment-free zone

A key factor in understanding people is utilizing empathy. This is a technique where you step out of your own mind and see things from another person’s perspective. By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you gain the ability to see how things may affect them. Empathizing with someone builds trust and strengthens bonds. In a lot of ways, being an active listener is an act of empathy. However, if you’re talking with someone and judging them or their opinions, this will create a barrier between you two. This barrier will then inhibit your ability to listen effectively. The next time you spark up a chat with someone, do your best to clear your mind of any judgments. This will also help you remain in the present moment and listen to what your loved ones have to say.