In Listening

What Is Active Listening?

active listening

We listen, but do we actively listen? You might like to think that you are a pretty good listener, you take pride in the fact that your friends, family, co-workers or even the random person you have just met will confide in you and you will sit there and take it all in.

Social interaction, whether small talk or a coffee chat, is key to the growth in any person, however, it can be more complicated then you realise. In fact, you may think of yourself as a great listener, but are you an active listener?

What does active listening mean?

When you listen to someone you are essentially hearing what they are saying. If you don’t react to this, you don’t ask questions and you probably don’t even understand what they are trying to say; then you are passively listening.

If you are responding to the person who is talking (being careful not to talk over them or interrupt them) then you are actively listening. You are trying to learn more about what they are saying, you are trying to understand it. You will ask questions and you will reflect back on what they have said. That is active listening.

Why is active listening important?

There are plenty of reasons why it is worthwhile doing whatever you can to become an active listener rather than a passive listener. One is because it helps you to earn the trust of those around you if you show that you are not only listening but that you want to help, then they are going to come to you when they need some help.

It also helps you to strengthen any of the bonds that you have already worked on with those close to you. Even the strongest of relationships can benefit from a spot of active listening.

Active listening also helps you to come to better solutions and work through issues. If you really hear what someone is saying and you take the time to learn as much as you can about their concerns and their situation, then you will be able to help them to come to the best solution.

“Active listening is not only a matter of making yourself available to hear someone talk, but it is showing the sender, physically, that you are receiving and understanding their message on all levels.”

Susan C. Young

How to practice active listening

Finally, after learning the importance of active listening, you may want to know how you can make sure that you are the best active listener that you can be. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come easy to us as people. You need to work on your active listening skills.

Essentially, the main thing to do is to practice, as it is something that doesn’t come easy it is going to take time to get to grips with. Essentially you need to be prepared to not only listen to what someone is saying, but also then respond to them. You should know which questions to ask to learn more information (think open ended questions here not closed ones) and be able to show them that you value what they are saying and will take it on board.

Only then, with time, will you become an active listener who people want to talk to and share their issues. Active Listening, is essential as a part of a heartful life so here I have compiled 10 tips that will help you on your journey to a heartfulness.

10 Tips For Active Listening

We are often far more enthusiastic about talking than listening, yet to perform interpersonal communication it is vital we do both. Most relationships breakdown due to couples talking but not really connecting, unless you hear truly what someone has said, then you can understand the subtext further. To build our social skills, we must learn active listening, the power of eye contact and reflective listening.

When we experience active listening, we feel valued and far more likely to engage in compromise and negotiation. Listening is far more than words, subliminally we watch facial expressions and body language as a true barometer of what is really being spoken. 

To be an effective, active listener it is vital that you listen actively.

10 tips to becoming an active listener

1. Make eye contact. Everytime.

2. Look beyond the voice, read the body language of the talker, what emotions can you see and sense? While over the top actions are easy to spot, become aware of the subtleties.

3. Mirror the talker’s body language – don’t impersonate, but rather see it as a gentle dance.

4. Be Reactive with Positive Reinforcement. Show you are listening by nodding and make appropriate responses.

5. Be a step ahead, think about relevant questions or ask them to confirm details if you don’t understand certain things.

6. Summarise or repeat back to them what they have said, “so what you are saying is…”

7. Use open-ended questions such as who? What? When? Where? This is reflective listening.

8. Use a respectful tone of voice that doesn’t seem judgemental or as if you are interrogating them. Stop yourself jumping to conclusions.

9. Be Compassionate, acknowledge their difficulties but don’t use anecdotes from your own personal experience.

10. Don’t go through the motions, be sincere and take a real interest in the talker. During a conversation leave your ego behind and concentrate on the other person.

Remember to not be judgemental about how you handled the conversation and practice makes perfect!