“Active listening” is an important skill that is not only for valuable counselors and psychologists, but also useful in studies, jobs, relationships, and other regular interactions.
We are often so busy and distracted by our own life that we fail to properly listen to other people. How often do you find yourself zoning out and missing important pieces of information? It is a common response to listening but one that can be easily harnessed.
In this post, I will share with you some easy tips that you start immediately applying to your regular interactions. If you pay close attention, you may notice that you naturally use some of these techniques.
These techniques are:
- Mirroring = Body language = Presence
- Silence and giving advice
- Reflection feelings and paraphrasing
How often do you look people in the eye when you are listening to them? How often do you turn your body towards them? These simply techniques allow us to communicate to people that we are here and present and listening to them.
In some cultures, looking people in the eye is not common and sometimes, it is sacred. In these situations, it is good practice to be mindful and mirror their body language.
By mirroring and noting body language, we portray that we are interested in what the other person has to say.
Another way you can show good body language is by nodding and using your facial expressions.
Silence and giving advice
This is an important one that a lot of us don’t often practice. For example, when someone is telling us their problem, we are compelled to jump in and give our best advice. Or, we are so excited that we want to chip in and share our own story.
Advice giving is often not helpful (unless explicitly asked for) and it may not be effective listening. Effective listening allows space for the other person to be accepted as they are.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey
Silence can also allow people to continue to come forth, think about what they are saying, and process it. Sometimes by jumping in with own thoughts, we can interrupt this important task.
Reflection feelings and paraphrasing
Let’s be honest. We have all at some point, misunderstood, barely heard, or completely missed something that someone said. This can happen in our daily interactions, job interviews, and even at the doctors office.
Reflecting back and paraphrasing allows us to gain clarity on what is being said. It is not repeating what is being said, but rather, voicing our understanding of the content.
Speaker: I am having such a hard time! My boss is really rude to me. He yelled at me the other day in front of everyone and now my workmates think I’m incompetent.
Listener (reflecting feelings): Sounds like it was really embarrassing for you.
At this point the speaker might acknowledge that they felt embarrassed, correct you if it is not the correct identification of their feelings, continue talking more about their experience, or change the subject entirely. It’s up to them.
Listening is about holding space.
By using these three simple and effective listening techniques, you can ensure that you are always attentive, never miss a thing, can demonstrate that you are actively listening and confidently clarify information. Happy listening!
“When people talk, listen completely.”
― Ernest Hemingway