“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
In this life we have a lot of people “talking” to us at home, at work, in the grocery store, and more. But are we really listening? Active listening, listening to understand, is an art developed over time. The benefit to active listening is better relationships in love, life, and work. With great listening skills, it is easier to resolve misunderstandings instead of sitting in conflict over a period of time. Start today and take the first step to be a better listener and friend to those who matter in your world.
What is active listening?
Active listening is treating listening as an active process, rather than a passive one. This means participating in conversation, rather than acting as an audience. Active listeners show they are listening, encourage sharing, and strive to understand the speaker. Show you’re listening and put away distractions. Watching TV, using your phone, or doing other things while listening sends the message that your person’s words are not important. Putting away distractions allows you to focus on the conversation and help a friend feel heard.
Use verbal and nonverbal communication.
Body language and short verbal cues that match the speaker’s affect (e.g., responding excitedly if the speaker is excited) show interest and empathy. Verbal: “mm-hmm” / “uh-huh” “that’s interesting” “that makes sense” “I understand.” Nonverbal communication is nodding in agreement reacting to emotional content and giving (e.g. smiling) eye contact. Encourage sharing by asking open-ended questions. These are questions that encourage elaboration, rather than “yes” or “no” responses. Open-ended questions tell those in your world that you are listening, and you want to learn more.
Examples of active listening.
“What is it like to ____?” “How did you feel when ____?” “Can you tell me more about ____?” “How do you ____?” “What do you like about ____?” “What are your thoughts about ____?”
In your own words, summarize the other person’s most important points. Be sure to include emotional content, even if it was only communicated through tone or body language.
Friend: I’ve been having a hard time at work. There’s way too much to do and I can’t keep up. My boss is frustrated that everything isn’t done, but I can’t help it.
You: It sounds like you’re doing your best to keep up, but there’s too much work. That sounds stressful!
Strive to understand be present.
Listening means paying attention to body language, tone, and verbal content. Focus your attention on listening, instead of other mental distractions, such as what you want to say next. When possible, save sensitive conversations for a quiet time with few distractions.
©Indigo Stone 2023