— Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.
The world’s most successful people are excellent listeners.
They start a conversation with the understanding that it is more about the other person than it is about them.
Their default policy is to listen actively to the speaker, as if that were the most important thing going on at the moment.
Listening to grasp the message is the key to effective communication in every setting, especially in relationships.
Words lost to mind-wandering, inattention, or misconception are a waste of both parties’ breath and time.
What Is Active Listening?
Active listening is essentially the process of receiving the message and delivering feedback during a conversation through verbal and nonverbal cues. Active listeners pay close attention to both the spoken words and the nonverbal cues. They also use empathy to read the unsaid and implied meaning, while listening without prejudice or hasty judgment.
“Active listening can help you become an unrivaled conversationalist and build a stronger relationship with your audience, whether it’s one or a thousand.”
Why Is Active Listening Important?
Active listening enhances understanding of what is being said, which in turn improves interpersonal communication. It also allows us to learn new things from those with whom we interact, which can lead to increased self-awareness and empathy. Most importantly, an active listener makes sure that the speaker feels heard.
Here are some proven benefits of active listening:
1. Increasing Empathy
Active listening benefits both the participants in a conversation by increasing empathic understanding, improving two-way communication, and reducing feelings of ideological and emotional isolation.
Active listening is a strategy in which the listener intently listens to the speaker and repeats back the gist of what they have heard to ensure that they have heard correctly.
That is solving a clear and current crisis in today’s world, since most people don’t have the patience or empathy to hear a person out.
Something has seriously harmed our attention span; we can no longer listen to a person for even one minute without interrupting or checking our phones.
2. Improving Communication
Active listening involves listening carefully to what the person is saying and responding appropriately.
This eliminates the possibility of misinterpretation and misjudgment.
Active listening promotes bilateral understanding, which leads to greater interpersonal communication.
It helps a person construct their ideas and judgments based on what they actually hear, rather than on half-heard and half-baked information.
3. Enhancing Self-Awareness
Active listeners also learn from those they are interacting with, which can lead to more self-awareness and empathy for others.
Active listening helps increase your self-awareness or self-knowledge.
There will always be aspects of ourselves that we do not know, but others do. Listening to people we are talking to offers insights about ourselves that we would not have learned otherwise, which increases our self-awareness.
4. Other Benefits
Some other benefits of active listening include:
- A better grasp of the speaker’s message
- Increased rapport with the speaker
- Confidence in communication skills
How Should An Active Listener Behave In A Discussion?
“To actively listen to someone, first, find a calm place where you can focus your full attention on them.”
Active listening involves focusing on the speaker, possibly taking notes, asking questions for clarity, and avoiding interrupting until they’ve finished speaking.
It helps both make better decisions in personal and professional settings, since listening is crucial for career advancement and interpersonal growth. Improving this skill is achievable for everyone.
This skill, which can be honed with practice, helps you understand both the spoken and unspoken needs of others.
Here are five steps to guide how you should behave in a discussion as an even better listener:
1. Make An Eye Contact
Make eye contact with the person who is speaking.
In a debate, an active listener should make eye contact with the speaker because it:
- Demonstrates focus and genuine interest in the speaker’s words.
- Serves as an effective technique to capture the audience’s attention.
- Enhances the listener’s reputation for being reliable and trustworthy.
- Indicates that the listener values the speaker’s opinions and thoughts.
- Helps them feel more comfortable and confident while they are talking.
- Fosters a connection with the person speaking and keeps the dialogue engaging.
- Builds a mutual bond between the person talking and the one listening, benefiting both.
Overall, maintaining eye contact during a debate is a crucial non-verbal skill that enhances meaningful interactions and effectively communicates the listener’s message on a personal level.
However, do not glare into their eyes or keep your stare fixed on them. Instead, softly focus your eyes on them, occasionally moving them for a few moments to something else, like your hands or the audience.
2. Listen With Focus
Listen carefully without interrupting or judging what they are saying. Try not to interrupt the speaker when they are talking.
In a debate, while the other person is speaking, the listener should:
- Focus entirely on the speaker, offering them complete attention.
- Steer clear of cutting off the speaker, as it can lead to misunderstandings and irritation.
- Set aside any thoughts of crafting a counter-argument and eliminate distractions.
- Pay heed to the speaker’s non-verbal cues and body language.
- Demonstrate active listening through their own gestures and body language, like occasional nods, smiles, and sustained eye contact.
- Offer responses to the speaker to confirm that their message has been accurately understood.
- Pose questions for clarity and periodically recap what the speaker has said.
- Abstain from forming judgments or evaluations about what the speaker is saying.
Overall, active listening involves not just hearing but fully engaging with the speaker, observing their non-verbal signals, and giving feedback to ensure clear and effective communication.
Don’t interrupt their flow of speech with a question of yours. If you must ask, then note it down in your mind or on a scratchpad.
Ask them when they have finished. Don’t let your phone or other distractions get in the way of hearing what they have to say.
3. Summarize And Ask To Clarify
Summarize what they said so that they know you were paying attention. This will also show them you care about their feelings and opinions.
Active listening involves intently listening to the speaker and repeating back the gist of what the listener has heard. It ensures that the listener has heard and interpreted correctly what they said.
Asking questions shows your interest in what the other person has been saying. It shows them you are trying to understand their point of view and encourages them to talk more about the subject.
4. Read Beyond The Words
Pay your full attention to them, their words, and their gestures, to make it clear you are indeed listening to them. This can be through facial expressions, nodding your head, or saying “uh-huh” or “I see.”
Pay close attention to their body language and expressions. People see you through when you put up an act of listening to them, while your mind is wandering somewhere else.
Not just show, let them also know.
5. Share Their Message Clearly
If you have invited them to talk before an audience, whether a show or a podcast, it is vital that your audience understands the speaker as well as you do, without misinterpreting any of their words.
The onus to do this is on you, since it’s you who invited them both—the speaker and the audience.
Get their version of the story clear to you and to others, if there is a common audience. Paraphrase what the person said back to them in your own words (“So, you are saying that…”).
Ask clarifying questions if you need more information about something they said. However, make sure your clarifying questions are not uncomfortably intrusive or put words into their mouth.
Why Is Active Listening Difficult To Implement?
Active listening is a difficult skill to implement because it requires a lot of practice and effort. It can be hard to listen actively when you are distracted, mentally busy, emotionally loaded, mind-wandering, or the speaker sounds uninteresting.
“The most common skills used in a good conversation are – involved and engaged attention as a listener, and interesting and jargon-free speech as a speaker.”
Active listening is listening to understand clearly what the speaker is trying to convey. Therefore, the active listeners ask relevant and clarifying questions without interfering with the speaker’s flow.
They place their queries during the speaker’s pauses.
- The active listener makes sure that the speaker feels heard exactly how they want to be heard.
- The active listener remains focused, engaged, and non-interrupting. They respond appropriately after listening carefully.
- Active listening with well-timed queries helps one better understand the speaker’s ideas and standpoints before moving the conversation ahead.
- The active listener always tries to choose a quiet place and a non-interrupting time to have important discussions and debates.
- We can use active listening in almost every setting, at home, work, school, and, most significantly, in negotiation situations, to improve our communication.
[• If you are a little anxious before a debate or a talk, try this out: Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve To Calm Down Quickly.]
Listening to soft music while studying, and to rhythmic beat music while exercising, are examples of active listening.
Listening to background music while studying can help one understand the topic better, since music maintains our attention for long periods. This is especially true for adults with Attention Deficit And Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). This research on boys with ADHD found that listening to music while working improved school performance for some.
Listening can be challenging since there are many distractions in today’s world, from cell phones to social media notifications, It can seem hard to tune out the world and focus on what is being said to us.
However, when one keeps their focus on you rather than letting themselves be distracted by anything else, having a conversation with them becomes much more delightful.
Listening actively is an essential aspect of every communication. If you are not listening well, you are not communicating effectively and will have difficulty understanding what the other person is saying.
While someone is speaking, how should a good listener behave?
While someone is speaking, this is how a good listener should behave:
1. Fully concentrate on the speaker, offering your complete focus.
2. Don’t cut off the speaker, as it can lead to annoyance and hinder a full grasp of their message.
3. Hold off on formulating a counterpoint and clear your mind of distractions.
4. Tune into the speaker’s body language and other non-verbal cues.
5. SHow you are listening actively by using your own gestures and body language, like nodding, smiling, and keeping eye contact.
6. Respond to the speaker to confirm that you’ve accurately understood their message.
7. Pose clarifying questions and occasionally recap the speaker’s statements.
8. Refrain from making judgments or evaluations about the speaker’s viewpoint.
How active listening benefits your professional relationships?
Active listening can benefit your professional relationships in several ways, including:
1. Fosters a sense of connection and trust among coworkers, clients, and business associates.
2. Helps settle disputes and clear up confusion more efficiently.
3. Boosts team communication and joint efforts.
4. It elevates your leadership abilities by offering better support to your team and organizational members.
5. Encourages a deeper sense of empathy and comprehension in one-on-one interactions.
6. Creates a more positive and productive work atmosphere.
7. Facilitates a conscious and conscientious effort to grasp the speaker’s full message, without interrupting.
8. Sends clear signals, like nodding or maintaining eye contact, to indicate you’re actively listening.
Which active listening strategy repeats back in your own words what you understood?
The active listening technique of repeating the speaker’s message in your own words is called paraphrasing or reflection. This rephrasing/repeating the speaker’s words helps validate your grasp of their message. This can help clear up any confusion and ensure that you have accurately received the speaker’s points. It also signals to the speaker that you’re fully engaged and keen on understanding what they’re saying. All in all, paraphrasing is a powerful active listening tool that can improve your communication and professional/personal bonds.
You can learn active listening and gain huge respect from others because of it.
An active listener, at the bare minimum, doesn’t interrupt or finish the other person’s sentence for them. Instead, they express empathy by asking questions and summarizing what they said so far.
Active listening is a great way to build a reputation in that you fully grasp what any speaker says. It helps you establish a bond of empathy and build rapport with your listener.
It sends out the word that you value not only hearing what they are saying, but also trying to gain an authentic insight into what they are feeling and thinking.
- Active listening, or listening carefully and attentively, increases humility in any conversation.
- Being a poor listener can negatively affect one’s quality of relationships and performance.
- To be a better listener, be comfortable with silence, and do not hurry the conversation.
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√ Also Read:
- 12+ Decision-Making Biases (Cognitive Biases Explained)
- Spotting The Sociopath Smile: Warning Signs of Danger
- How To Answer Confidently In Interviews: The STAR Method
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