Whether it be a friendship, co-worker, spouse, or manager, communication is a fundamental part of every relationship. Even though the act of speaking and listening is simple, truly listening and comprehending in today’s loud and fast-paced world has become increasingly difficult. Often times we face issues due to a misunderstanding that could easily be prevented by listening more intently. It’s not too late to change this though, and by practicing active listening and a few simple habits you can train your brain to listen with intention.
What is active listening?
Active listening is a way of expressing attentiveness and enthusiasm when listening to someone else. By showing genuine interest in what the speaker has to say, it will get across to them that you actually care about what is being said. Getting this across is key to establishing a connection with anyone, and by practicing active listening you can grow those relationships quickly.
Habits of an active listener:
1. Focus on nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication is incredibly important for the listener, because without being able to actively speak your nonverbal actions will speak for you. In the same way that an eye roll or shaking head can be interpreted as disrespect or disagreeing, a smile and a reassuring nod will indicate that you are paying attention to what is being said and reaffirm the speaker.
2. Mind your thoughts
When practicing active listening, it is important to not let your thoughts drift from what the speaker is saying. Rather than putting yourself in the situation and imagining what you would do, it is often better to wait and hear someone out entirely before trying to offer suggestions. By minding your thoughts and focusing on only what the speaker is saying you will better understand the situation and the speaker will feel listened to.
3. Choose to interpret
Choosing to interpret is the part of active listening where you take in what has been said and reflect on it. A key point when interpreting is to refrain from passing judgment on the situation. Instead, try considering what is being said from the speaker’s perspective as best you can. By listening objectively you will be able to offer an unbiased response and more clearly understand what is being said.
4. Repeat back to others
A simple way to show someone that you are listening alertly is by repeating what was said back to the speaker when responding. For example, you can start a sentence with “What you’re saying is…” or rephrasing what they said back to them. By doing this, they will know you were listening and they can also make sure you understood what was meant.
5. Ask leading questions
In addition to actively listening and responding to others, another way to establish a relationship through active listening is by asking leading questions. Open-ended questions such as “What is your opinion on it?” or “How does it make you feel?” can open up conversations entirely.
Active listening is a simple way to show someone that you care about what they have to say and that their information is valuable to you. It is practiced by many and applicable to all. Moving forward, it is my challenge to you to focus on actively listening in every conversation you have, and use this method to create and strengthen your relationships with others.
It is one thing to hear someone, but another to listen, reflect, reiterate, and then respond with a question that furthers the conversation. By choosing to actively listen, you will become a better listener, a better communicator, and a better individual.