Being heard and understood is a need for every member of the human family. We all want to know the people in our lives care about us.
Having someone listen and respond to your needs can help you feel important. Conversely, you give others a boost when you listen carefully to them. This is where active listening techniques becomes important.
Maybe you haven’t heard of active listening before. Basically, it’s listening with the intent of understanding the total meaning of what’s being said. You do this by allowing the person to speak without interruption, and then you repeat back what they said.
The goal of active listening is to improve understanding between both parties.
You may not believe it, but there’s more to listening than merely being quiet. In fact, someone who’s an active listener will encourage the speaker to talk, try to clarify any points they don’t understand, and be sure they’re aware of the speaker’s intent.
An active listener will enable the speaker to feel like they’ve truly been heard and understood.
Before you begin a conversation, especially if the subject matter is important, be sure you’re in a location where you won’t be interrupted by noise or distractions. This sets the stage for a meaningful conversation.
Here are some active listening techniques you can use to improve your communications:
1. Be attentive. Pay attention to the person speaking with you. Stay focused on what they’re saying, without trying to anticipate what they’re going to say next. Stay in the moment.
2. Respect the speaker. Even if you think you know what they’re going to say, try to listen to what’s actually being said.
* Pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal clues. Body language, facial expressions, and posture can all provide a detailed picture of what’s going on.
3. Keep your attitude in check. Avoid confrontation or anger. You’re not trying to win an argument; you’re trying to understand the person with whom you’re speaking.
4. Avoid letting your personal preferences affect how you listen. Try to keep your personal beliefs from clouding the speaker’s statements.
5. Don’t jump to conclusions. Regardless of what the speaker says, don’t make assumptions or judgments about what they said. Find out all the facts and ask questions if you need to.
* For example, if you see someone who’s unshaven and poorly dressed you might deduce he’s homeless. The case may be that his wife had to be rushed to the hospital to deliver their baby and he didn’t have time to clean up first. You just can’t make assumptions.
6. If you don’t understand what’s being said, clarify by asking questions. Refrain from interrupting. Ask your questions in an even tone of voice when the speaker pauses.
7. Try not to become distracted or lose track of what’s being said. Daydreaming about what you need at the grocery store won’t help your friend in need, and if you lose track of the conversation you’ll come across as uncaring.
8. Give appropriate nonverbal clues. When you’re actively listening to someone, your body language will show whether you’re paying attention or not.
* Look the speaker in the eye while they’re talking and try to maintain eye contact as long as it’s comfortable for both of you.
* Reaching out and touching their arm or shoulder will also help the person you’re speaking with recognize that you’re interested in what they’re saying.
* Nodding your head is another indication that you’re listening.
9. Repeat back what you heard. This lets the speaker know that you’re really listening. Also, when you say what you understood, it gives them a chance to clarify any miscommunications.
You can learn how to listen actively. It doesn’t take long and the results will be worth the effort. You, your spouse, business partner, co-worker, or children will all benefit from learning and employing these simple active listening techniques.