Active listening is a training frequently offered to leaders and counselors to build trust, empathy, and relationships. It’s a skill that can positively impact people both professionally and personally. The foundational concepts are straightforward, beneficial, and available to anyone willing to put in the work. Now that we have your attention, here are the basics to get started.
Commit: First, practice listening with intention. Withhold judgement as you focus on what the other person is saying and try to understand their perspective.
Be present: Non-verbal cues are great ways to show that you are paying attention, including your posture, eye contact, and nodding to exhibit understanding. Consider potential distractions, and consciously choose to eliminate them. This might include stepping away from your desk, closing your computer, or putting your phone away.
Be respectful: Allow the person to share their thoughts completely. Don’t interrupt or think about your response while they are speaking. Just listen. Tune into cues from the speaker, and determine if you should match them. Notice if they are they speaking quietly, if the conversation is private, or if they are using language to be aware of and reflect.
Comprehend: Ask thoughtful or clarifying questions to demonstrate your understanding and interest. Summarize what you heard, to show their message was understood correctly.
Respond: Once you’ve demonstrated that you understand the speaker’s perspective, it’s your turn to contribute to the conversation. Do so by acknowledging the speaker, and actively participating in the subject being discussed.
Active listening is one of the simplest ways to show people you care, especially in a high-tech world with many distractions. Utilize these tips, and you may be amazed of the positive impact it can have on your next conversation with your colleague, friend, partner, parent, or child.
Interesting fact: Fidgeting is not always a sign of distraction. For some, it may be a coping mechanism to help them listen better. Therefore, don’t take offense. Privately seek to understand if their fidgeting is because they are distracted or is actually helping them.
Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Inc.
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