There is no doubt that communication is key to success in any field. But what many people don’t realize is that listening is just as important as speaking. Active listening is a skill that is essential in both personal and professional contexts.
Great communication is not just about being able to speak effectively. It’s also about being able to listen attentively.
Do you know why we have two ears?
Well, we have two ears to hear the sounds clearly from both directions. However, when we talk about communication skills, we need to take into account the idea of the Greek philosopher “Epictetus”. He said that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak!
In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of active listening and how to improve active listening.
What Is Active Listening?
Active listening means when you understand the essence of the message that the other person is conveying to you in spoken words.
Active listening is about trying to understand the emotional state of the speaker and responding in a way that will be helpful to them. It is about bearing witness to the emotions of the speaker and validating their feelings. Active listening is not just about hearing, it is about fully understanding.
Listening skill is what makes you a good conversationalist. Try to be attentive when someone talks and show interest in the conversation. When you do this, you’ll open doors for more great conversations with them.
People would love to come to you and share their thoughts and discuss their ideas, issues, or problems. Perhaps they would like to know your opinion or ask for your advice on something.
Giving opinions and advice can help you develop other interpersonal skills, such as leadership!
Why Is Active Listening Important?
Active listening is important for a number of reasons: it allows us to better understand the speaker, build rapport, and show that we’re interested in what they have to say.
Active listening also allows us to better understand the speaker. When we listen actively, we’re not just hearing the words that the speaker is saying, but we’re also taking in their nonverbal cues, trying to understand the meaning behind their words, and responding in a way that shows we’re engaged in the conversation. This allows us to build rapport and trust with the speaker.
Active listening shows the speaker that we’re interested in what they have to say and it is helpful in both personal and professional relationships.
In our personal lives, our friends and family members want to feel like we’re interested in them and their lives. At work, our colleagues and clients want to feel like we value their input and ideas.
By making the effort to listen actively, we can improve our relationships, build trust, and better understand the people we interact with on a daily basis.
Remember that the first step in communication is to listen. You can’t talk to someone if you’re not listening to them. It’s the same in business, you can’t give a proposal or come up with a solution if you’re not listening to what the customer is saying.
The customer is the reason your company exists and if you don’t listen to them, you’re letting them down. Good communication means that both parties are listening to each other.
5 Most Common Active listening Barriers
Before you start working on your active listening skills, you should be aware of the general barriers to active listening.
There can be a number of reasons why active listening problems can occur. These are the 5 most common barriers: –
Unable to hear the speaker properly:
If you are having trouble hearing the speaker, you will not be able to understand the message.
Difficulties in understanding the language:
You cannot interpret the correct message if you have difficulty understanding the language. This can cause confusion and misunderstanding in the conversation.
Lack of interest:
If you are not interested in the topic of the conversation or do not want to hear what is being said, you will not be able to listen actively.
Thinking while the other is talking:
If you are constantly thinking about what you will respond to when the other person speaks, you will not be able to concentrate on the conversation.
Your emotions can get in the way of your active listing and communication. Emotions like stress, and anger can affect your listening ability.
How To Improve Your Active Listening Skills?
There are a couple of ways to develop and improve active listening skills. Here are the 7 things you can do to master the art of active listening!
To be an active and interested listener, you need to be prepared for the conversation.
- Keep an open mind.
- Avoid being judgmental.
- Make sure you are fully involved in the discussion.
You can give your full attention and show the speaker that you are interested and listening carefully by:
- Maintaining proper eye contact.
- Not thinking about “what to reply” while the other person is talking.
- Avoiding being distracted.
Also, it’s important to respond in a way that shows you’ve been listening. This can be done with verbal and nonverbal cues. For example, you can nod your head or make eye contact to show you’re interested.
Also, you can use affirmative statements like “I see” or “I understand” to let the speaker know you’re following along.
Distraction can affect your listening. To have a sound conversation, always try to avoid distractions. Do these things to avoid distractions while having a conversation:
- Do not check your phone frequently.
- If possible, put your phone away.
- Try to have a conversation where there is no background noise.
Interruption can be irritating. If you’re talking, you don’t want to be interrupted, do you?
Interruption disrupts the thought process and you can forget what you will say next. So don’t interrupt others when they talk.
Interruption is not good for the following reasons:
- It irritates the speaker
- It is disrespectful
- It disrupts the thought process
- It reduces message comprehension time
Before you say anything, let the speaker finish his or her speech. However, if the interruption is very necessary, always try not to “disrespect” others while interrupting them.
When you need to interrupt in the middle of a speech, you can use phrases like…
– Can I say something here?
– I’m sorry, can I add something quickly?
– I’m sorry to interrupt, but…
Avoid Completing Others’ Sentences!
Stop completing others’ sentences. It’s a worse thing to do and can have a negative impact on your personality. Also, it is inappropriate behavior. This shows that you are impatient and do not want to listen to them.
Ensure That You Understand!
To ensure you understand what they are saying, you need to clarify your understanding. This is the best way to show that you have listened carefully and participated fully in the conversation.
Here are a couple of ways to ensure that you understand:
Questioning- Asking questions will help you ensure that you understand everything. Try to be non-judgmental while asking questions.
“What did you mean when you said…?”
Acknowledge if you are not clear- It is always better to acknowledge if something is not clear or what the speaker means. It’s the best way to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.
“I don’t know exactly what you mean here.”
Ask to repeat- If it is necessary or you feel that it will help you understand, ask the person to repeat.
– Could you please repeat it?
Ask for example- You can ask for specific examples if you need more details to understand something.
“I’m not quite sure I understand. Could you give me some examples?”
Summarizing and paraphrasing- You can summarize and paraphrase to reflect on what you have heard. It helps with your understanding and shows that you are listening properly. You can use the phrases like…
“If I hear you correctly, you’re saying that…….?”
“Sounds like you are saying……..”
“So, you mean that……..? Is that correct?”
Arguing is not a good habit. Once you start arguing, you start to lose focus from listening.
Different people have different opinions, but that doesn’t mean you start arguing with them. Moreover, it doesn’t help when you want to end a conversation on a good note.
Listen to them attentively and allow them to finish their point. Once they are done, share your views!
People like to communicate with someone who may be interested in listening to what they have to say.
When you listen to someone thoughtfully, you make them feel good. This helps you bond with them easily. Whether it’s your colleague, your partner, or your child, active listening skills can help you have a better relationship with them.
If you are a parent and want to help your child with emotional intelligence, active listening can be a good tool.
Active listening is an invaluable skill to have. Because people don’t just want to listen to you, they want to be heard too!