ACTIVE LISTENING BEGINS BY GIVING UNDIVIDED ATTENTION
It’s harder than you think. Active listening takes discipline because your mind processes information much quicker than someone speaks. So it’s way ahead of the conversation. So you have to be intentional. Pause your thoughts. Bridle your brain. Or you’ll wander away from active listening to mind wandering along various thought trails of inattentiveness. When actively listening, make eye contact with the other person. Lean in. Perhaps even jot notes on a pad of paper. You’ll hear, understand and comprehend more effectively.
ACTIVE LISTENING MAKES HEARING AND UNDERSTANDING THE PRIORITY
When listening to someone share a problem, a first inclination is to solve the problem. Provide wise counsel and guidance. Even when the other person may only want to be heard and feel empathetic understanding. It’s an immediate, active listening disconnect. You wanting to solve. Them wanting to be heard. The conversation is unsatisfying for both of you. Avoid this by asking clarifying questions and summarizing what the other person says. This lets them talk through the problem. See it from different angles. Maybe even consider a different perspective. And it keeps you on track. To say, “Yes, I am actively listening and understanding you.”
Keep in mind that people may struggle to articulate their thoughts. Especially in the midst of emotional drama. They may use words that don’t accurately describe what they really mean. Or different from how you define them. When you summarize what they just said in your own words and they agree with you, it improves the level of mutual understanding.
ACTIVE LISTENING IS EMPATHETIC AND SHARES STORIES
We all want to feel understood and like others share our pain. That’s what active listening communicates to another person. And why it’s so powerful…so healing. It assures people what they’re going through is a shared human experience. That you are there for support. So it’s helpful to share similar life experiences with some level of vulnerability. Confess your own mistakes or doubts. How you have navigated them, come out on the other side and lessons learned. Your primary mission is to actively listen. So sharing specific details is unnecessary. But be authentic and express your humanity.
ACTIVE LISTENING COUNTER-BALANCES A TALK HEAVY CULTURE
Perhaps if more people pursued a active listening culture, we’d see more healing and understanding around the world. In reality, no words alone can relieve loss and pain. What is important to remember is that by implementing active listening tools and techniques, you’ll be able to provide an environment where people can safely talk about their experiences and begin to come to terms with life-changing events. Being listened to increases people’s ability to rally their own coping skills and, at the same time, provides comfort and healing in times of greatest need. Your knowledge and skills may make all the difference to others.
Chip Tutor Communications