How to be an Active Listener
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” — Bernard Baruch, American financier, and presidential advisor
Active listening is the process by which an individual secures information from another individual or group, observing the speaker’s non-verbal behavior and body language.
Active listening builds solid relationships and, while it may not come naturally to many of us, it’s an invaluable communication skill that can help you improve your workplace productivity and develop better relationships.
Let’s check these five essential techniques you can use to develop your active listening skills.
1- Pay attention to the speaker
Devote your full attention to the speaker. Pay attention to what is happening and observe the speaker while they are sharing their story. Acknowledge the non-verbal message.
Be aware of subtle changes in their voice, the way they mimic you, the words they use, and the emotions they are experiencing. Try to understand the thought process of your conversation partner truly.
Put aside distracting things, and demonstrate concentration. Refrain from fidgeting, looking at a clock, doodling, playing with their hair, or fingernails picking.
Shut down your internal dialogue while listening. It is impossible to attentively listen to someone else and your inner voice at the same time.
2- Show correct nonverbal communication
It is vital to use appropriate body language. We read and instantly believe what body language tells us, whereas we may take more persuading with verbal communication. If there is a mismatch between what we are saying and our body language, the interlocutor will believe the body language, not the words.
It’s crucial to use nonverbal cues which show understanding, such as nodding, eye contact, and leaning forward. You can also use your posture, facial expressions, and hand gestures in a positive way to add strength to your verbal messages.
If you pay attention, body language will also help you to pick up on unspoken issues or negative feelings in others.
3- Respond Appropriately
Active listening is designed to encourage respect and understanding.
Personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. Avoid criticism, be polite and offer compliments.
Assert your opinions respectfully. When in agreement with the other person, openly say so and say why. If you have to disagree with the other person, give the reason first, then tell them you disagree.
Let your interlocutor know you are listening. Use brief verbal affirmations like “I see,” “I know,” “Sure,” or “I understand.”
As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
Don’t interrupt with counterarguments.
When you finally do respond, try not to hammer your point simply. Refuse the impulse to tell your story on the topic. Ask open questions such as “How do you interpret this?”
Paraphrasing is another powerful communication tool. Starting with sentences such as “So you are saying that…” or repeating in your own words what you believe the other person said are ways to show that you followed the conversation and understand.
4- Practice Non-Judgment
There is no need to agree or disagree with what is being said or evaluate the statements being made.
Remember that offering your active presence is more important than having your more profound question answered.
Be open, neutral, and patient while you listen.
Judgments are merely based on our personal opinions and experiences, neither of which are great measuring tools.
5- Building trust and establishing rapport
Creating rapport at the beginning of a conversation with somebody new will often make the conversation more positive.
Listen to what the other person is saying and look for shared experiences or circumstances. This will give you more to talk about in the initial stages of communication.
Look at your interlocutors for approximately 60% of the time. Give plenty of eye contact but be careful not to make them feel uncomfortable.
Admit when you don’t know the answer or have made a mistake. Being honest is always the best tactic, and acknowledging mistakes will help to build trust.
WEEKLY VOCABULARY 🗣
Dialogue: A conversation between two or more people as a book, play, or movie feature.
Misunderstood: incorrectly interpreted or understood.
Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
Polite: having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people.
Purpose: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
PHRASAL VERBS ✍
“I’m only going to say this once, so listen up.”
Listen in on
“Richard was listening in on our conversation.”
Listen out for
“We saw lightning and listened out for the thunder.”
Point something out/to somebody
“I didn’t realize I’d make a mistake until somebody pointed it out to me.”
Caroline refused to engage in a dialogue with Charles.
Prick up your ears: listen carefully.
In a nutshell: very briefly, giving only the main points, using a few words.
Listening with half an ear: not giving one’s full attention; listening to someone or something intermittently or with only partial attention.
Speak with a forked tongue: to tell lies, to make false promises.
Have a bone to pick with someone: to want to talk to someone about something annoying they have done,
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