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What Active Listening Really Means

        posted by , June 09, 2013

Hearing and listening are not the same thing.

It's surprisingly rare for people to listen with full comprehension for long periods of time. Ask an audience what a speaker has said after a 20 minute presentation โ€” most people will only be able to list 2 or 3 points.

Same goes for conversation, it's common for people to pay little attention when someone else is speaking.


What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a communication technique that involves giving a speaker continuous feedback to improve your listening comprehension and show that you're listening.


Why is Active Listening Important?

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.
~ Ernest Hemingway
Ever get the feeling that someone isn't listening to you?

We all want our words to be heard. Unfortunately, bad listening habits are incredibly common.

Most people listen in a passive way. This makes it easy to drift off when someone is talking. It's easy to start daydreaming about your weekend when someone is talking at length about a logical topic.

It's also common for listeners to "wait to speak". Meaning that they're impatient for their turn to speak. This can raise the stress level in the conversation and lead to negative results.

Active listening keeps you alert. It allows you to process everything that's said so that you can develop an intelligent response.

Active listening also makes it obvious that you're listening. This will help you build rapport and influence. People like people who listen to them.


How do I Apply Active Listening Techniques?

Active listening is a set of techniques that can be made a regular habit.

These habits can be improved with time and improvised to your own style. You'll find that improving your listening helps you to build rapport and influence people. You'll also learn more.

These are the primary active listening techniques:

  • Eye Contact
    Maintain strong eye contact.

    listening in the crowd

  • Body Language
    Maintain positive body language.

  • Continuous Feedback
    Give the speaker continuous feedback by injecting with short phrases such as "yes", "I know what you mean" and "I understand".

  • Summarize
    When it's your turn to talk begin by summarizing what the other person has said. "So you feel that ..."

  • Use the Power of Curiosity
    Active listening works best when you're genuinely interested in the conversation. Use your sense of curiosity and guide the conversation in interesting directions.

    listening

  • Active Questioning
    Avoiding interrupting to speak. It's okay to interrupt to ask a question. If your conversation partner is over-explaining a point that you already got โ€” move the conversation along by asking a question.

  • Emotional Intelligence
    View the conversation at both a logical and emotional level. Phrases such as "I understand" and "I know how you feel" are useful.

    emotional intelligence

  • Agreeing vs. Listening
    Choose your words carefully. Showing that you're listening can be misinterpreted as agreement.

    doubt


Next: Active Silence Explained ยป




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