Everyone is born to listen right?
Or we all probably just assume we are great at it because we have been doing so all of our lives. Unless of course you have a hearing problem and that is unfortunate.
The goal of this article is to show you the top 10 things we need to understand the purpose of active listening.
Nothing that is presented is difficult but will need to be practiced in order to gain the most out of the article.
For now just a few quick things I want to mention, first is that you will need to be in a comfortable spot before you can effectively listen to anyone, second you need to be able to clearly see who you are listening too, and third you need to have the energy so you don’t fall asleep.
In order to keep this article as short as possible, I am going to put two points under each heading. And will also point out the barriers somewhere in a graphic so that you can take it with you for a quick reference.
Active listening is your path to success
The first two things to point out are the absolute musts. You will need to stop talking because you can’t be distracted by your own conversations when you are supposed to be listening to somebody.
The second thing is to get as comfortable as possible so that you can be fully ready to listen. The importance of not having to adjust yourself so you don’t distract the speaker.
Both of these points will show you are serious when you are engaged in the conversation, the speech or anything else that involves you placing your focus on somebody other than yourself.
By doing this each and everytime you will gain a routine and be able to start doing this automatically.
Pay attention and don’t get distracted
To do these two things you will be required to maintain good eye contact, and not just stare at the other person. Eye contact doesn’t mean you blankly fixate on their face or anything else about them that you might find more interesting.
This can be difficult at times because we all have eyeballs that want to go to other parts of peoples bodies which aren’t polite to do. When you are listening you won’t be needing to fixate on somebody else’s moles.
Don’t let yourself zone out or daydream either, these two things can complicate the situation.
Emphasize with the person talking
Try your best to see the topic from the other person’s point of view, don’t get confused with sympathy or trying to identify something. If you have any trouble realize what the difference is and keep the focus where it needs to be.
Also don’t get overzealous if the person needs to pause or clear their thought, we are trying to understand people and what they are saying. So allow them the time to say what they need to say.
Don’t think just because it feels like a minute has gone by that you need to ask them something, instead, watch for a non-verbal cue to see if they are wanting you to respond.
If you don’t get a cue then simply reflect on what has been said already and go right back to listening when they continue on.
As long as you are focused on them and not yourself, whatever else you could be focused on you will be more likely to understand the message being spoken.
Tone and the volume of what is being said
When a person is speaking they are likely to say things in a voice that changes. Be prepared for this to happen a few times throughout the conversation. When they don’t put any emphasis on anything then it’s likely to not stand out and be all that important.
You also need to understand the ideas they are wanting to communicate. This way you can respond to the appropriate questions when it’s your turn to do so.
But never start a question before the other person is done speaking this can lead to problems and misunderstandings that will only complicate the relationship.
Non-verbals and what they imply to the message
I mentioned these earlier briefly but now is the time to understand what they mean. Fidgeting or moving around can mean the other person is nervous, uncomfortable or agitated.
You should be aware of yourself and try to ease them with your own non-verbals so that they can calm down. Don’t do things like look around the room, look at your own watch or phone, and don’t start pacing to match their movements.
Sometimes they will calm down by doing whatever it is they get comfortable doing. It’s really important to learn as much as you can with your eyes and not just with your ears.
Let’s go back to everything so we understand it
The purpose of active listening is to figure out a complete way to understand another person. This can be done with practice and will improve with many interactions over time.
People will want you to be only interested in what they have to say, so to do that you need to keep other things off your mind and not allow for distractions.
When you have gained the understanding from their point of view, wait until they are finished before asking your questions. This can take a few pauses to get to so don’t be impatient.
Make sure you don’t interrupt or show any non-verbal signs of being distressed because this may add to their own anxieties. Be prepared to suggest your own ideas when they have gotten done presenting their own.