“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”
— Lee Iacocca
Effective communication is a skill that everyone needs, and it’s not only for work but also in your personal life. Your relationship with people will not be solid if communication is poor. However, communication is not all about talking. There are times when you also have to listen, and as simple as it may seem (a resting phase before you resume talking), active listening isn’t an easy skill to acquire. Have you ever attended a seminar or meeting, only to realize that it was a waste of time because you didn’t listen? Listening is different from hearing. When you listen, you are expected to deduce the message the speaker is passing and even more, depending n your abilities. Anything short of that is a waste of time, and that brings us to the concept of active listening.
Active listening refers to a listening pattern that keeps you engaging constructively with your communication partner. It is a method of listening attentively as someone else talks, paraphrasing and referring to what is said while excluding judgment and suggestions. You make others feel heard and respected as you use active listening. Therefore, it is the cornerstone of every fruitful dialogue. Active listening differs from critical listening in that you do not assess the other person’s message to give your view. Rather the aim is merely to hear the other person and maybe to fix their problems.
How to be an active listener
There are three key steps to listening actively; the first is attention, which involves avoiding any form of distraction when listening. The aim of paying attention is to find the direction of the conversation and the message. When you have that, then you can proceed with the other aspects.
The next is attitude. Here, it would be best to let the person know that you listen to the common gestures you make. Gestures like maintaining eye contact, giving regular nods, and being on the lookout for the speaker’s non-verbal gestures.
The next approach is to paraphrase salient points you noted while paying attention. Also, while listening, avoid any form of argument or judgmental statements. For example, if someone tells you about an unfortunate incident, do not ask questions like, “what were you thinking?” Or “why did you let it happen?” Such statements beat the purpose of active listening.
Conclusively, there are various methods of listening suitable for different purposes. And the reason for active listening is delicate, and when properly done, it can be advantageous because people will trust you at work, at home, and can easily make connections.