Why Active Listening is Worse than Not Getting a Rose

The skill that everyone has, but never uses right? Did you hear me? It’s a skill that everyone has but never really uses or rarely uses because there thought is way more important than your right now at this very moment.

This very important skill can help in preventing misunderstanding and lack of communication, and even eliminate what many can’t ever seem to avoid, the arguments, because one missed what the other has said.

This very simple skill can be both acquired and developed over time and with intentionality, however it can be very difficult to master.

Remember back when you were a child and your parent, guardian, coach would tell you something, and even though you may have showed a sign that the message was understood, it would quickly slip your mind, and you would have to go back to the said person and have to ask again, only to get the, “didn’t you hear me” response. You would then turn and be upset and possibly say in a sarcastic manner, “yes I heard you” only to turn around and lose it all over again? Well, maybe you heard the sound but not the message.

Here is a quick break down.

Hearing is a mechanical process referring to one’s ability to perceive sounds, by receiving vibrations through ears.

So you may hear what was said but do not process it.

Listening is mental. This is done consciously, and involves the processing and understanding of the sound and information.

So then what is Active listening? Well, it’s something you do, by fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just “hearing” what was said.

Putting away the distractions, like your phone when there is someone speaking to you, can be the first step to become an active listener. Because active listening does not just happen with your ear, but all senses.

An active listener makes the person that is speaking feel that the message is being received, through both verbal and non-verbal actions. Things like eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, agreeing by saying ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue. This basic act of feedback allows for everyone involved come to a mutual understanding that the message was, sent and received.

When developing this practical skill, one should remember to be patient, and give full and undivided attention. Additionally, remain neutral and non-judgmental during the conversation and discussion as this could shut the sender down without being able to provide a clear message. Finally, don’t worry if there is brief pause or moment of silence, this could help in allowing for processing the message.

Signs and tips of Active Listening

Non-Verbal Signs of Attentive or Active Listening

Here are some generic non-verbal signs of listening, however, not all of these signs may not be appropriate in all situations and across all cultures, so please know and understand the “audience”

Smile

Small smiles can be used to show that the listener is paying attention, combined with nods of the head, smiles can be powerful in affirming that messages are being listened to and understood.

Eye Contact

It is normal and usually encouraging for the listener to look at the speaker, however can be intimidating, especially for more shy speakers. Combine eye contact with smiles and other non-verbal messages to encourage the speaker.

Posture

Posture can tell a lot about the sender and receiver in interpersonal interactions. The attentive listener tends to lean slightly forward or sideways whilst sitting. Other signs of active listening may include a slight slant of the head or resting the head on one hand.

Mirroring

Automatic reflection/mirroring of any facial expressions used by the speaker can be a sign of attentive listening. These reflective expressions can help to show sympathy and empathy in more emotional situations. But don’t force the expressions, that could be a sign of not being fully engaged

Distraction

The active listener will not be distracted and therefore will refrain from fidgeting, looking at a clock, watch or phone, doodling, playing with their hair or picking their fingernails.

Verbal Signs of Attentive or Active Listening

Positive Reinforcement (This strong signal of attentiveness should be used with caution) Casual and frequent use of words and phrases, such as: ‘very good’, ‘yes’ or ‘indeed’ can become irritating to the speaker. It is usually better to elaborate and explain why you are agreeing with a certain point.

Remembering

Remembering a few key points, or even the name of the speaker, can help to reinforce that the messages sent have been received and understood — i.e. listening has been successful. You can take notes to refresh and go back as well.

Questioning

The listener can demonstrate that they have been paying attention by asking relevant questions and/or making statements that build or help to clarify what the speaker has said.

Reflection

Repeating or paraphrasing what the speaker has said is a powerful skill. This can reinforce the message of the speaker and demonstrate understanding.

Clarification

Clarifying involves asking questions of the speaker to ensure that the correct message has been received.

Summarization

Summarizing involves taking the main points of the received message and reiterating them in a logical and clear way, giving the speaker chance to correct if necessary

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