Active listening is a term first used to describe a type of listening conventional in a therapy setting. The philosophy of active listening says that the listener is just as important in conversation as the speaker. Learning how to be a better, more engaging listener will improve your relationships ten fold.
Eliminate Distractions And Pay Close Attention
How will you ever have a chance of hearing anything if you are surrounded by distractions, and how can you say you are listening if you are not paying attention? In order to be sure that you are hearing your friend properly you should take a minute to eliminate distractions from the room; put your phone away, shut your laptop, turn the TV down or off. Now you might have half a chance of hearing what is being said.
Next you have to pay attention. There is no trick to this, you should just learn to take an interest in what is being said. Try to follow the meaning, and if you get behind on the conversation, or don’t take in what is said, then admit it and ask your friend to repeat the message.
Listen For The Speaker’s Intended Message
Very often when you think you are listening to the speaker, you are actually listening to your own bias about what is being said, or you are busy formulating a way to respond before you even know what is meant. Active listening is based on the priority of understanding the speaker. This means putting your own perceptions and inputs on hold, and allowing them to elaborate, explain, or at least finish their statement. When you understand the speaker’s message, you can challenge it with your own opinion, but until then you should focus on their meaning.
Give Good Feedback
As a listener, it is your role to give good feedback to your friend. Feedback can be as simple as a nod of the head or a statement of encouragement. It can be both verbal and non-verbal. You should use body language to engage with your friend when you are listening to them; lean in closer to them, and give good eye contact so that they know you are paying attention.
Verbal feedback extends to asking questions or paraphrasing what is being said, both of which are good listening techniques. When you ask questions concerning what is being said, you have an input, and give your friend a chance to further expand. When you paraphrase you are checking that you understood what they intended, and demonstrating your understanding to them. If their speech is long you may also summarize their meaning, again so that everyone involved knows that they are on the same page.
Listen To The Emotions And Feelings
There are many different ways to listen; you can listen critically or informatively, which helps you to evaluate and learn, to debate and converse. You can also listen to the emotions and feelings of your friends, and you should do so whenever you feel it is appropriate, and would be appreciated. The ability to look beyond the content, and into the heart and soul of your loved ones, is a listening skill that will improve your relationship dramatically.
If your friends are emotionally venting, especially if they are angry or sad, then often it is best just to be there to listen to them, without offering too much response. Just allow them to get it all out, and only offer them practical advice if they ask for it. A hug and an open ear and heart and usually enough.
Listening is just as important as speaking in communication, and in relationships. You will improve your relationships instantly and dramatically if you implement active listening skills into your life.