In the last conversation that you had with someone, did you feel like what you had to say was actually heard? In many modern conversations, instead of listening to the other person, what is actually going on is an effort to either add a personal viewpoint or to find a way to contradict the other’s opinion. By taking the time to develop the skill of active listening, more information can be effectively passed between two people because they are working together to be on the same page.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Be engaged in the conversation. There are plenty of distractions today in the modern world. Your smartphone can ding any time you get an e-mail or Facebook notification. Instead of allowing these distractions to interrupt a conversation, turn them off completely so that you can focus on what is being said instead of focusing on the anticipation of an interruption.
2. Maintain eye contact. One of the biggest reasons why people feel like another person is not engaged in a conversation is because they don’t maintain a level of eye contact. Now obviously you don’t want to stare someone down aggressively, but if you’re busy looking at your text messages, e-mails, or reading status updates on your social network, chances are you’re not really listening anyway.
3.Ask open-ended questions. Asking any question about the conversation is going to show that you’re at listening a little bit. If you can ask an open-ended question, or a question that requires more than a “yes” or a “no,” you can accomplish three very important things:
4. Validate what that person is feeling. So what if the information being shared with you doesn’t mesh up with your opinion? Many conversations have “I feel” statements within them. This means that if you disagree with that person or tell them they shouldn’t actually be thinking the way they are about a particular subject, you’re invalidating their emotion. In a sense, you’re making yourself superior and the other person inferior. That stops a conversation dead in its tracks because no one wants to talk with someone who focuses on personal negatives or attacks.
5. Always repeat back what you’ve heard. The most powerful statement in any conversation is this: “Let me see if I heard you right…” and then you repeat back what you’ve heard from the other person in your own words. This allows people to bridge whatever communication gap there may be because both parties are working together to get onto the same page. When that happens, true communication occurs!
You may just find that the more you practice the skill of active listening, the more others around you may be willing to practice it as well. Take the opportunity to practice your active listening skills today and see how it might just change the way you have future conversations!