How To Polish Your Active Listening Skills

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We tend to only remember about 25 to 50% of everything we hear, which can result in missing an important opportunity. Here's how to practise active listening to truly hear what people around you have to say.

Your hearing is one of the five senses connecting you to the real, outside world. It’s pointless to repeat how important it is. Your ability to listen what people and how people talk to you has a huge impact on the relationships you develop over time, as well as on your professional efficiency.

Are You A Good Listener?

We listen for different reasons: to learn new things from those who are more experienced than us, to obtain essential pieces of information, to be able to understand better concepts and ideas which are new to us and, why not, to enjoy.

We’re listening to different things all the time. One would say that the more we do it, the better we would become at it. But is that really so?

You might be surprised, but researchers state something entirely different. In fact, according to a research, we tend to remember between 25 to 50% of everything we hear. In simpler terms, everytime you speak to your mailman, to a customer, to your spouse, to the taxi driver – and so on – they will remember less than half of the whole conversation.

The same goes for you! When you are introduced to new concepts or when you are given directions, you are not hearing the whole message, either. Now, you are probably hoping that you usually manage to capture the most important parts in those 25-50%, right? But what if things are not like that, at all?

Clearly, everyone would benefit from improving their active listening skills. Not only would productivity be increased, but also the ability to negotiate, influence or persuade, which would result in an overall evolution on more levels.

Having good communication skills require a certain degree of self-awareness. This means that in order to be able to understand the others, you first need to understand yourself and your communication style. Only this way, will you manage to become a good communicator.

What Is Active Listening?

Shortly put, it is an exercise which will improve your listening skills. It’s very effective, which is why it should become a custom. Unfortunately, due to the fact that it is a bit hard to practice, many people tend to abandon it.

Active listening presumes not only hearing what the other person has to say, but also understanding the message they are sending. The process of understanding it, implies a great amount of attention and focus. Not allowing yourself to be distracted by any external factors is an important part of getting the message right, without any misunderstandings and further explications.

If you find it hard to focus, mentally repeating the other person’s words will help by reinforcing the message and helping you to stay completely focused.

Practicing Active Listening

Here are 5 techniques you need to keep in mind. They will help you understand what other people are talking to you, but they will also ensure them that you received and understood their message completely.

#1 Attention

The speaker should enjoy your undivided attention. Nonverbal communication can also turn you in, if you are distracted, so be careful!

  • Look into your speaker’s eyes.
  • Focus on their voice to avoid distracting factors.
  • Don’t make up useless negative scenarios like a potential contradiction waiting to happen.
  • Don’t allow other conversations to distract you.
  • Observe the speaker’s body language.

#2 Listen!

Show that you are listening to them. How?

  • Maintain a friendly inviting body posture.
  • Nod and smile, every now and then.
  • Use comments like yes or uhm to encourage them to continue talking.

#3 Feedback

Don’t let personal beliefs or assumptions to get in the way of the message you receive. Reflect on the ideas that have been sent to you and ask questions, as a part of the feedback process.

To avoid a rush of emotions that would have a negative impact on your discussion, reflect by paraphrasing. The questions you address should clarify certain key points in your conversation.

Don’t forget to make a summary of the speaker’s comments from time to time.

#4 No Interruptions

Besides the fact that it is impolite, interrupting your speaker will also reflect on the poor understanding of the message they are sending.

For a better comprehension, allow your partner to finish their ideas before addressing questions. The same works for counter arguments!

#5 Answering Politely

Active listening is not only about understanding the message. It is also about responding to your conversational partner in a polite manner, giving them the respect they show you too. On this note, remember the following:

  • Maintain a calm, warm and open attitude.
  • Offer your opinions in a polite manner.
  • Give the other person the respect you’d want to be give to you.

One thing you need to remember about active listening is that it requires a great amount of focus and determination. Focus to get it done and determination to break old habits. Do not allow anything to interfere with the message. Ask the questions that need to be asked and paraphrase to ensure full understanding of the message. Not doing that could result in a significant difference between what the other person is saying and what you are hearing.



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