Active listening is an important life skill. This is your ability to be present and pay attention to the person you are talking to. Giving someone your undivided attention will show that you care about them as a person and you show them respect by giving them a chance to say their thoughts. The key phrase here is “pay attention” because active listening takes energy and focus. Your ability with listening skills can impact many aspects of your life, including how well you do your job or the quality of your personal relationships.

If you’re serious about maximizing your success, then you have to be serious about becoming a strong communicator. Although good communication skills include the ability to share ideas through speaking or writing, listening is a key essential component of good communication.

The Importance of Listening Skills

  1. Master an important part of communications. Talking is only one side of effective communication. In interpersonal communication, 1-1 communication, its arguable that listening skills are as important if not more important than actual speaking skills. We also need to be able to understand the messages that people are sending us.
  2. Build stronger relationships. Listening is a critical part of letting your family and friends know that you value and appreciate them. Giving the people in your life an opportunity to share their thoughts, opinions, and emotions shows them you care and helps them feel more connected with you. Many conflicts can be reduced if we work to understand each other’s views.
  3. Advance your career. Active listening will help you clarify your employer’s expectations and priorities so you make the best use of your time at work. It’s equally important to take action on the expectations as it is to figure them out. Expressing a sincere interest in what your colleagues have to say is paramount to good interpersonal work relationships.
  4. Improve your emotional health. Many of the techniques involved in active listening are good for your mental and emotional health. By minimizing distractions while listening, you can enhance your own peace of mind. Learning to empathize with others is a powerful antidote against anger.

General Tips for Effective Listening

  1. Ignore distractions. Give the speaker your full attention. If you notice your mind wandering, bring it back to the subject at hand. In addition to listening to the words being spoken, pay attention to what is said through nonverbal communication, like body language and gestures, to really understand their message.

* In order to pay full attention, you must put aside any distracting thoughts. Don’t use the speaker’s turn to prepare your response. If you’re thinking of what you’ll say next, you’re likely to miss what’s being said now.

  1. Give the speaker cues to show that you’re listening. Confirm that you’re listening by using visual cues through gestures and body language.

* A quick and easy way to communicate that you’re paying attention is to make frequent eye contact and nod when appropriate. This action shows your agreement and makes it clear that you’re engaged in what the speaker’s saying.


* Smiling, laughing and other appropriate expressions are clear responses that will let a person know you really are hearing what’s being said. 

  1. Avoid interrupting. Always be sure to allow the speaker to complete his thoughts. Interrupting someone is both rude and disconcerting. It also prevents you from hearing the full message. If you accidentally interrupt someone, give them permission to continue their train of thought. Permissions are powerful, and this one will help the other person feel comfortable to continue talking.

* When the speaker is finished, respond accordingly and appropriately, offering your ideas and opinions in response to what he said. While you may not always agree with others, you must still be respectful. You can also add follow up questions to take the conversation deeper.

  1. Hear people out. Let people present what they have to say without being interrupted. Concentrate on what they’re saying rather than formulating your own response. Confirm that you’re listening by using visual cues through gestures and body language.

* A quick and easy way to communicate that you’re paying attention is to make frequent eye contact and nod when appropriate. This action shows your agreement and makes it clear that you’re engaged in what the speaker’s saying.

* Smiling, laughing and other appropriate expressions are clear responses that will let a person know you really are hearing what’s being said.

  1. Pretend you’re doing an interview. Most people think much faster than they can talk. You can use this to your advantage by finding ways to keep your mind engaged if it’s starting to run ahead. Analyze what the speaker is saying and draft questions that would help to clarify or elaborate on the main points.

Maintain a welcoming, open posture to show you’re receptive to what the speaker has to say. This might include facing the speaker, leaning toward them, and staying alert. Short interjections like “uh-huh” or “yes” encourage them to tell you more.

* To make it clear that you’re actively engaged in a conversation, periodically summarize what has been said. Paraphrasing can be particularly useful when someone is sharing personal feelings with you. This way you can be sure that you have a clear understanding.


* Ask questions to clarify points you don’t understand.

Tips for Effective Listening In Challenging Situations

  1. Encourage people to express themselves. Sometimes people are hesitant to approach a sensitive topic. Use open-ended questions and patient pauses to enable a more complete discussion. You can also set the tone by inviting someone into an open space. You can let them know that you will only listen to what they have to say without judgment.
  2. Practice empathy. One of the best ways to understand what a person is really saying is to put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand their thinking and feelings. One way to do this is by letting them know that you care about them and that you are sorry they may be feeling a certain way. Not everyone wants their problems to be solved. They want to express their emotions, be heard and say their problems out loud. 
  3. Manage your emotions. When you’re listening to something that evokes strong emotions, you may need to detach yourself temporarily from your feelings. It’s critical to distinguish between what is actually being said and your own assumptions and emotions.
  4. Prepare in advance. If you know you’re going to be listening to a presentation on a complex or unfamiliar topic, it may be helpful to do some research ahead of time. If you acquaint yourself with the basic facts, you’re more likely to be able to keep up with a discussion of more specialized information.
  5. Verify the message. With complex or emotionally charged material, it’s important to listen attentively and verify what the other person is saying. You can repeat back a brief summary of the message to be sure you’re both on the same page. Sometimes this can sound like “I am sorry that you are feeling _______________________. The blank space is where you repeat what they said. Or it could sound like “I understand that you want  ___________________ to be changed so you won’t be upset anymore.”

You’ll be surprised at how differently you’ll hear things as an active listener. If you follow these tips, you’ll not only become an active listener but a better communicator as well.

 

If you liked this blog post, you’ll LOVE our Free E-book

How You Communicate Affects Your Health

Here’s what you will discover inside:

☑️ The research behind how the quality of your relationships impact your health

☑️How communication affects your brain

☑️How communication affects your body

☑️Two types of self-awareness that will change the way you think about communication

 

Yes! I want to learn how my communication affects my health.