Tag: active listening

Active Listening Is the Key to Communication

Do not listen with the intent to reply, but with the intent to understand. —Anonymous

 Listening is somewhat like an art form, and as in music or dance you only become proficient with practice. There are countless meanings assigned to the act of listening. You can listen with your heart, you can listen to your intuition, you can listen to mantras of religion or stories you’ve been told since childhood. The listening I am referring to is about how we listen to ourselves and others, which all of the above influence. Without sincere listening, communication breaks down, misunderstandings flare, and a sense of dread and loneliness can cause you to feel frustrated or anxious.

To lessen the problems non listening creates, here a few ways to develop and enhance your ability to listen. When you are truly listening to another person, find the takeaway. In other words, look to understand what that person is trying to say? Avoid reading into or interpreting, tease away your own biases. If what they are saying is ambiguous, murky or makes no sense to you, simply ask for clarification, or mirror to them what you feel their message is.

When you are actively listening, you will more than likely have questions, hold them until the person is finished. Often many of us are too eager to spew out our response, or wisdom, or opinion that we forget to fully hear what the other person is saying. If you find yourself preoccupied with focusing and crafting what you think, you are not listening. Or if you realize that your reply has nothing to do with what the other person is saying, you were not paying attention. Watch professional interviews, you can always spot an interviewer who is not listening by their response, it will be in left field regardless that the statement was right and center.

Naturally it is easier to listen to people you share common ground with, it is difficult and challenging to listen to those you don’t. Let’s put this in the realm of relationships. Your partner may have been raised with strict rules and there was little wiggle room for self exploration. You on the other hand had a family that encouraged independent thinking. You fall in love, but after the honeymoon phase, you find you are arguing over just about everything. More than likely, it is a lack of listening to each other…listening without hearing. Whew, that is a tough one. However, when you begin to practice real listening, you can not only muddle through tough conversations, you may actually begin to see resolutions. When you let down the defenses and say to yourself, this isn’t about me, it is about the other you can learn to listen with love, empathy, and a deeper understanding that leads to connection.

Spiritual leader Ram Dass has a plethora of quotes that remind us that listening requires going beyond our ego. “We are fascinated by the words, but where we meet is in the silence behind them.” It is in the quiet recess of your consciousness that the truth or impact of words reverberates. Words themselves are simply nouns, verbs, adverbs, tools with which to communicate. yet somehow, they can cut us deeply or be profoundly motivating. When you think about how people without hearing communicate it is interesting because they still use language just not necessarily words. If you have ever traveled to a country where English or your mother tongue is not spoken, you find that you can still communicate through gestures, although the risk for misconstruing someone’s intentions is much higher. The fact is, words are only part of communicating with another.

A huge part of learning to listen to others is listening to yourself. If you are constantly filling your mind and energy with some diversion, you cannot hear your inner thoughts or desires or spiritual guidance. Think about a time that a teacher, a friend, a mentor said something that resonated with you so deeply it changed your life forever. It was that time you spent meditating or pondering the words or intentions of the person that shared them with you that allowed you to see the truth and significance to them.

Learning active listening will change the way you communicate forever, and it will enhance your relationships and confidence


How to be an Active Listener

jackrabbit-673965_1280Hearing and listening are different things. Hearing is passive; sounds come to us through our ears and we notice them. Listening, however, requires the brain to get involved. It’s a learned skill because it requires concentration, interpretation, and interaction. To really listen, we have to be present in the moment.

In our busy world and with so much on our minds, it can be challenging to actively listen when a friend, co-worker, or family member wants to have a conversation with us. We are often thinking about or doing other things while someone else is talking—ever realize you’ve been asked a question and you have no idea what was said to make a response? We may pay more attention to conversations we deem “important,” but for everyday conversations we have with family, friends, co-workers, it’s easy to “check out.” If we’d like to be more active listeners, it’s a good idea to practice being aware and present for those people in our lives.

Here are some ways to facilitate conscious, active listening:

  • Determine whether you are able to give your full attention when someone wants to have a talk. If not, let them know. For example, “Can I call you back in 10 minutes? I’m finishing up this task and then I can give you my full attention.” If the conversation is going to take more time than you have, or you are not able to be there for them because of your mood/business, it is ok to say: “This is a rough day for me. I want to be able to give you the time you need. How about we chat over coffee tomorrow?” In this way, the other person feels valued but also understands that right now is not a good time for you.
  • Focus your energy on the speaker. If you are speaking face-to-face, maintain eye contact, have an open body posture (uncross your arms, turn your body toward them), and either lean slightly forward or imagine doing so.
  • Put aside your own troubles and thoughts. You will have time to deal with those later.
  • Don’t interrupt. Allow the other person to speak to completion. We often interrupt out of a need or desire to connect (“I’ve had that happen too!”) or show we’re listening (“Really? Why would he/she do that?! That’s terrible!”), but we can do the same thing without interrupting by facial expressions, nodding, or simple comments (such as saying wow, yes, right, uh-huh). Instead, imagine sending them energy that corresponds with how you would respond verbally. For example, imagine your heart open and radiating love, care, or empathy to someone who is upset.
  • Resist mentally rehearsing what advice you will give or how you’ll respond. You will end up distracted, miss what is said, and may telegraph to the person you’re not with them. If you listen fully, you will be ready to speak when it’s time.

If you put these tips into practice, you will not only strengthen your ability to actively listen, but others will most likely notice the difference and feel positive about your conversations. Whether we are aware of it or not, we can sense when someone is really listening to us, and we respond more favorably to them because of it. By practicing active listening with the people in your life, you might find they are more present with their attention and energy when it’s your turn to speak.