Given all the listening we do, we are not good at it. We only remember between 25-50% of what we hear. That means when you talk to someone for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of what you say. That also means we are not listening to the whole message, either. By being better, you can improve productivity, your ability to influence, persuade, and negotiate. Bonus, you will also help avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.
Practicing active listening means you are fully concentrating on what is being said. Active listening serves the purpose of building trust and helping you fully understand someone’s situation. To build that trust, we want to avoid habits like:
- Being stuck in your head
- Not showing respect for the speaker
- Only hearing superficial meaning – not the underlying meaning
- Being distracted
- Selective listening
- Rehearsing your response
- Trying to impress
- Tuning out
- Focusing only on your agenda
- Listening without actively responding
There are five fundamental active listening techniques to help become a more effective listener:
- Pay attention
Paying attention sounds like a no brainer. You want to give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Your non-verbal communication also speaks on your behalf. Be mindful to look directly at the speaker, avoid mentally preparing your response, and tell those distractions to piss off.
- Show that you are listening
Use your body language to your benefit by nodding occasionally, use appropriate facial expressions, and keep your posture open.
- Provide feedback
As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. You cannot allow your personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs to distort what you hear. Take an active role in understanding and ask questions. If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone is saying, say so, and ask for more information.
- Defer judgment
Who is not annoyed by getting interrupted when they are speaking? Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions and do not interrupt with counter-arguments.
- Respond appropriately
You add nothing of value by attacking the speaker or putting them down. Active listening is designed to encourage respect and understanding, remember the golden rule.
Active listening benefits many areas. It allows you to respond with empathy and truly understand the point of view of another person. It enables you to ask questions to make sure you have that understanding and validates the speaker. Active listening also allows you to understand unique problems and collaborate to develop solutions.