Active Listening is one of the most effective ways to connect with others. If you are sincerely interested in the other person, the use of this tool will help you develop a solid connection with the speaker. Best of all, this is something almost anyone can learn.
Attitude is the most important part of successfully learning active listening. Keep in mind that this incredibly valuable communication skill works best if you remember that
You are still on board? Great! If you understand the above, and genuinely want to learn these skills, let’s get to it.
Point 1: Focus on the speaker. Pay full attention to him/her. Show the speaker that you are listening, with your body language--eye contact, head nods, facial expression, and perhaps an occasional ‘um-hum’. Turn and face the speaker fully, but leave enough physical space between you that you’re not overbearing.
Point 2: Ask questions and paraphrase the speaker’s statements in order to get clearer on what is being said. We speak in abstract concepts all the time, so if the speaker is using terms that seem important to them, make sure you ask them what the term means to them (examples--love, hate, joy, hard work, etc).
“If I understand correctly, you’re saying that you have concerns about my attendance at work and you’d like to see me miss less days.”
Paraphrasing a speaker’s words like this can give the speaker further opportunity to clarify what they are saying. Notice that the previous statement was worded in a matter-of-fact, non-confrontational way. This is critical.
Point #3: Don’t interrupt the speaker. If you have a tendency to talk over people, try breathing deeply and calmly as you listen to the speaker. Interrupting someone will put the speaker on the defensive and likely cause them to believe you weren’t listening at any point (even if you were).
Point #4: Be honest and sincere. This is a foundation for healthy relationships. People can sense dishonesty, and won’t trust you.
Point #5: If you are really upset, politely ask if you can resume the conversation at a later time. Depending on the individual you are with, you may even be able to admit that you are upset and therefore cannot give this individual your full attention. Then walk away. Really! Studies have shown that there is an inverse correlation between the intensity of our emotions and our ability to think clearly. If possible, disconnect, and resume when you are more level-headed. If you find that it's hard for you to control your anger/frustration and walk away, click here for tools on gaining insight and control over your anger.
For more tips on active listening check this page out.
For the next two days, use the principles listed above with everyone you meet. After two days, reflect on the difference in the effectiveness of your communication. If you take me up on this, I'd love to hear back from you. Feel free to send me an e-mail or comment in the box provided below. Thanks!
Be patient with yourself. You’ll stumble at times, as this isn’t a natural way of communicating for most people. However, the rewards of developing this habit are well worth it. I can help, too. Communication and relationship issues are common reasons that people see a counselor. I have over a decade of experience in teaching Active Listening to others.
In addition, the habit of truly paying attention to others, when coupled with the practice of Active Listening, goes a long way toward helping us be effective communicators. More on the art of listening and truly paying attention here.
The effort is well worth it. Think about it: becoming a better listener and communicator applies to almost every area of your life!