Do you engage in other activities while having a conversation with others? Do you multitask often and even when you are in a two-way conversation? There are two ways to listen: hearing and actively listening. When a person or a conversation is important to us, we must listen actively to understand more and respond better.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening means listening, not hearing, to understand what the other person is thinking, feeling and expecting from us. It involves paying undivided attention to the verbal and the non-verbal communication of the other person, interpreting it and responding to it appropriately.
Using Active Listening
When you want to understand a person or a situation, you must use active listening to pick up the subtleties that we usually miss in an interaction. To listen actively, do the following:
- Make eye-contact
- Nod your head in agreement or shake it to show disagreement
- Restate the key points in a dialogue
- Ask appropriate open questions
- Offer a different, but related opinion
Eye Contact – When we put down our phone, turn away from our monitor or take out our earplugs and make direct eye contact with the person speaking to us, we are physically showing that we are now engaged with them and interested in what they have to say.
Head Movements – When you shake your head in disapproval or nod it in approval, it signals to the other person that you are actively listening to them, and that their person and the communication is important to you too.
Restate the Key Points – By picking up and discussing the key points in a conversation, you are showing your active role in the communication. Make sure that you ask the other person to explain to you what you do not understand. It will help you to understand them better and will show them that you care enough to ask for explanations.
Ask Appropriate Open Questions – When you take the time to think through the key points of a being communicated to you, you are showing not only active listening skills, but proactive communications skills where you not only understand what’s being said, but you are now thinking through the process and bringing up potential outcomes or issues which might face you as a team in the future.
Suggest Different Opinions – This has the same effect as asking relative questions. By bringing up various other topics or a different way of interpreting the information being presented, you’re also indicating that you’ve not only actively listened to the conversation but are now adding to it.
During the training in active listening, participants develop skills to grasp more from a communication, use appropriate questions at the right time, retain more, and respond better. A training course in active listening will involve:
- Testing your ability to actively listen
- Identifying the difference between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’
- Determining active listening principles
- Identifying your own communication behaviours
- Understanding how your emotions effect the ability to listen and communicate
- Understanding the use of ‘minimal encouragers’
- Learning to paraphrase and restate for clarification
- Practicing active listening skills
- Managing an encouraging and productive brainstorming environment
Developing the skill of actively listening helps to build relationships, understand people and situations better and handle other people effectively.