In today’s high-speed world, communication is one of the most important things you can have. Unfortunately, we tend to devote less of our time listening to each other and more time listening to outside distractions. Genuine listening without distraction has become precious. Active listening is an amazing trait to possess. It helps build relationships, solve problems, resolve conflicts, and improve accuracy. If you take the time to listen in your job, you can have fewer errors and waste less time. If you listen in your marriage, you just may save it.
Face the speaker
One important part of active listening is to face your speaker and maintain eye contact. There is nothing worse then trying to have a conversation and watching the person you are talking to look at their phone or scan the room and not keep eye contact. This type of behavior makes the speaker feel unimportant and uninteresting. Focus and give divided attention to ensure the person feels comfortable talking to you.
Once you have made eye contact, you can relax. Pay attention, be present and remain alert, while screening out distraction. Don’t over focus on being attentive and then become distracted while trying to focus. Relax and listen to the conversation and give thoughts and opinions while you are listening. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling when they are discussing their situation.
Regardless of what someone tells you, try to keep an open mind. Listen to their story and their emotions and put yourself in their shoes. Listen without jumping to conclusions. Don’t be a sentence interrupter, let the person get their sentences out and don’t try to finish their thoughts.
Paint a Picture
Listen to the words the person is saying and try to paint a picture from their perspective. Stay focused and fully alert. If the conversation goes on for long stretches, try and remember key words and phrases. Don’t spend time trying to articulate what you are going to say next, but focus on the conversation at hand. Concentrate on what is being said and don’t allow your thoughts to wander.
Children are taught it is rude to interrupt, yet adults do this all of the time. Talk shows and reality shows display this type of interrupting behavior. Loud and aggressive behavior is condoned and respected. Interrupting sends a variety of signals that say you are more important than they are and that you don’t really care about what they are saying.
Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions. When you don’t understand something, ask the speaker to explain, but wait until they are on a thoughtful pause.
Stay on Topic
Try to ask questions that help with understanding the topic at hand and don’t cause a diversion to another topic if you can help it.
Make sure to give feedback when you are listening that reflect the speaker’s feelings. Examples are “You must be thrilled!” or “You must feel awful.” Paraphrase to ensure you are getting the exact content they are providing.