The world’s most successful people are excellent listeners.
They start a conversation with the wisdom that it is more about the other person than it is about them. When they converse, 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 inattention or misconception are a waste of both parties’ breath and time.
Active listening can upgrade your relationships, whether you’re in a meeting with coworkers or with someone close who is going through an emotional breakdown.
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 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 And 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.
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 more 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
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.
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.
How Should An Active Listener Behave In A Discussion?
Active listening includes paying attention to what the other person is saying, taking notes if necessary, and asking clarifying questions as needed. It also implies that you should refrain from interrupting or speaking over them with your own ideas or opinions until they have done speaking.
Active listening is a skill that all of us can develop with some practice. It can help you understand the said and unsaid needs of your friends, family members, and coworkers. It can help you make better decisions in your personal and professional life.
Listening is a very important skill in the workplace. It can help you advance your career and get ahead of your peers. And it’s not just about listening to what people say, but also about listening to what they don’t say.
Being a better listener is something that we all can strive for, but there are some things you can do to be better at it.
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. This helps them feel more comfortable and confident while they are talking. 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. 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.
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.
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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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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