When we sense that we are not being listened to, it can be very frustrating. Toddlers throw tantrums when they sense this; marriages break down and even organisations face issues because of it.
Not actively listening is one of the major reasons for communication breakdown because people do not consider it a skill that worth having.
Hearing vs Listening
Hearing is the brains response to sound without any effort. We assume that as long as we can hear someone talking and we understand their words then we are listening. However, that assumption is wrong. Active listening is purposeful and focused. It requires concentration to grasp the purpose of what the speaker is saying. It also involves the use of verbal and non-verbal commands as well as emotional intelligence.
It is a technique that has to be developed and honed for it to become second nature.
Tips for Active Listening
Look and sound interested in the speaker
When listening to a speaker, look and sound interested in what they are saying. It encourages them to communicate more and expand on their thoughts. You can nod encouragingly to keep them going. Even use subtle vocalisations to encourage them to keep going.
See from the speaker’s point of view
To understand the speaker better, see their point of view. Listen intently and do not interrupt or rush them. Suppress your initial reactions even if you do not agree with their perspective. Understand their point of view so that later when you are discussing with them you can also present your own perspective.
Listen quietly when someone is speaking to you. When you do that, you will be able to spot non-verbal cues you may have missed if you were talking. Be conscious about when to interject. You could wait to ask questions in between pauses. The questions should be open-ended to allow them to express themselves even more.
Active listening matters for success in all areas of your life. Your relationships become better because you give your attention to people when they are expressing their thoughts and experiences. They will perceive you as someone who cares about them. It can also help to make your professional life successful. Good listeners make better decisions based on better-informed judgements and they tend to be better leaders.