If you are talking to someone and that person has his or her arms crossed, it is not a good sign. They may not be listening to you. Crossed arms are a protective gesture, points out Bob Roberts, department head of food science at Penn State University.

Especially when arms are crossed and hands are drawn into the body, it’s a sign that the person has withdrawn from the conversation. Another sign of inattentiveness is when the person won’t make eye contact with you while talking.

Think about it ... Are you guilty of these things — crossed arms and not making eye contact — when talking to people?

You could be sending the wrong message. Roberts, who spoke at the recent joint annual meeting of the American Dairy Science Association and American Society of Animal Science, offered these suggestions for becoming a better listener:

• Be attentive.

• Avoid distractions. If you are in a room with other people, don’t be looking off in the distance for someone else to talk to… the person you should be talking to will pick up on that.

• Don’t interrupt the other person.

• Maintain eye contact.

• Provide feedback. One way to provide feedback is through body language.

A good way to show that you are interested is to lean toward the person while he or she is talking. Ask questions. Ask the person to clarify some of the points he or she has made.

• Summarize back to the person what you have heard.

The last two points involve what Roberts calls “reflection” where you reflect back some of the person’s comments so he or she knows that you have been listening — and are interested in getting the message right.