Do you hear me?
What is Active Listening?
Listening is making meaning from sound. Active listening means listening consciously. It means being totally focused on what your speaker is saying rather than hearing in a passive way the thoughts of the person speaking to you. Active listening is first about understanding the other person, then about being understood.
Active listening involves listening with body and soul. A very unpleasant experience is when you are talking to someone and from the look of the eyes, you almost immediately realize that his mind is someplace else. Beside being ungrateful, it also could make the speaker think that his subject-matter is not interesting at all. Active listening means to pay full attention to your speaker but it is also very crucial that the active listener is perceived to be listening.
Do you want to become a better listener?
Here are my 8 ways to improve your active listening:
Be present. The best environment for nurturing active listening is one with a cosy tone of voice, to give the other person peace of mind to think and answer in an appropriate way. Be present within the moment and be always respectful.
Practice silence. This is an exercise to do everyday: remain in total silence for 4 minutes a day. This simple exercise will help you reset your ears. Why? Practicing silence is just like doing a RESET ALL with your computer. To become a better listener it is critical to train your ears to silence. Listening in an active way at that point will feel a lot easier.
Have an open mind. Whether you are in a personal environment or a professional one, as a listener you need to have an open mind. Don’t let judgment get in the way, because that will close the doors of communication.
Ask questions. If the topic of conversation is not clear, ask questions. By asking questions the speaker will comprehend that you care. By asking questions the speaker might even open up more, and exchange valuable thoughts.
Ponder. Don’t take for granted the fact that the speaker knows that you know, or that you comprehend correctly. Use paraphrasing to make things clear for you and for the speaker, and to verify that you are both aligned.
Share. The process should begin with you listening to the speaker, comprehending the topic, emotions, points-of-view, then you should make yourself understood. Once you have a clear picture of the speaker’s perspective, then you can share your comments, ideas, and recommendations.
Positive feedback. Good reinforcement or encouragement is greatly beneficial to the speaker. However, the listener should make a limited use of it so as not to draw the attention away from the topic of conversation. By providing positive feedback, the speaker will feel more comfortable and therefore, communicate more easily and openly.
Recap. Once the conversation carries on, recapturing the main points will make the speaker feel closer and on the same page as the listener. Remembering details is especially useful and proves that the listener was paying attention – thus encouraging the speaker to proceed. A concise summary of what you comprehended will also make the speaker feel reassured.
Do you know why Active Listening is important? Because it is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communication skills. And we all know that communication can also occur through non-verbal signs, that in some cases can be quite meaningful for the speaker. What follows is a short list of 4 non-verbal signs that should be kept in mind to become a supportive and great active listener.
The listener should make eye contact with the speaker. This allows the listener to establish a link with the other person, it also provides encouragement and support. According to the topic or the circumstance, the eye contact could be more or less persistent. The capable active listener will know how to calibrate how much eye contact is appropriate.
Smiling can be useful to show the speaker that you are following the topic but also to transmit peace of mind, especially when the topics are treacherous. If smiling is associated to warm expressions of the eyes, and nods of the head, it can be of great comfort to the speaker, to affirm that the message is loud and clear and most of all, received and understood.
Posture is very meaningful in interpersonal interactions. It can give out clear signs even before hearing the verbal messages. An effective active listener, tends to lean forward toward the speaker. This creates proximity and gives the speaker a sense of belonging.
One thing that an active listener should not do is to get distracted while the speaker is relating his message. When a person is talking and the listener keeps looking in other directions, observing people, or looking at the watch, or texting, that is simply a very ungracious way to behave. Being distracted will tell the speaker that you are not interested in hearing his message, and it will also make the speaker feel at a loss for support.
Conscious listening creates understanding. In order to make the speaker open up and give the listener the opportunity to understand, it is necessary to learn to listen. Becoming better active listeners is a process that requires time and effort, but most of all, patience.
To listen does not mean to stay still and not talk. It means to adopt a proactive behavior through which one can show to comprehend the speaker. Active listening is typical of those persons who like to avoid the blocks of communication, to favor empathy.
If you are someone who:
- pretends to listen
- asks inquisitive questions and interrupts the speaker instead of listening
- offers solutions based on his experience
- jumps to quick conclusions giving the solution way before understanding the real issue of the speaker
- expresses personal judgments on the matter
You need to take a deep breath and work on your active listening skill now!
Unfortunately, many communication experts agree in saying that a low active listening capability is the biggest obstacle to a good communication. Being able to actively listen can allow you to have better relationships at home and at work, to learn from others, to strengthen friendships, and to greatly improve your decision-making process. A great active listening skill means growth and improvement.
Active listening goes beyond the comprehension of words. When you are actively listening, you are using your ears, but also your eyes, and most of all your heart.