'He/she just won't listen!' How many times have you heard couples lament about this? Countless, right? I'm sure you have. But why stop at couples? If you look at the finer threads of society, you will find that 'not listening' is most often the bone of contention in most relationships. No matter if it's employee-employer or mother-daughter or like I mentioned, a couple that is romantically involved. So why is it necessary to have active listening skills? For the simple reason that lending a ear to someone makes the person feel wanted and important, and that leads to a person becoming closer to one another.
If you take an example of the work force, exhibiting these skills will help people become more receptive to change in ideas and the general ethos of the workplace will be more genial because you display effective listening techniques. Therefore, production and output will be more because of active communication.
Exercises and Techniques
There are several exercises that help develop listening skills and it is necessary that we learn them. These exercises will help people become better at inter-personal and intra-personal skills.
When you are having a conversation with a person, listen to them. As in not relegate their voices to a distant chatter in the background while you think about grocery shopping in your mind, but really listen. Understand what they are saying.
Do not interrupt when the person speaks. Let them complete their ideas and thoughts. Interrupting someone and jutting in with your ideas is a clear sign that you do not give any importance to what they are saying. Not good.
Whenever you are in doubt, ask questions. Make sure you do not interrupt when the person is making an important point. Wait for the opportune moment to ask a question. Let the conversation flow. Asking questions shows the other person that you are genuinely listening to them. That you want to really understand what they are saying.
Maintain Eye Contact
It is very important to maintain eye contact. Pretending that you are listening to someone and having a glazed expression in your eyes, now what good is that going to do? No good. You might think that you are hiding your boredom well, but you really aren't. Maintaining eye contact is very important for listening.
When someone speaks and you're listening to them, give them feedback in the form of sounds or comments. It does not have to be a feedback interjected with exclamations but a simple 'm hm' will also suffice.
Whenever a person speaks, listen to them in such a way that you can relate to what they've said and say something back to them. That shows that you've truly been listening. To get this right, whenever they are done with making their point, summarize what they said to you and repeat it to them. This will show them that you've been listening, and if you've made a mistake somewhere, they can correct you.
Shake Yourself Up
If you're really listening to that person (actively listening, completely understanding), then you will end up feeling tired, especially if it's a lecture of some sort. This is because it is an activity that requires being mentally involved. If you find that you are getting restless and there are chances that you might drift, then shake yourself up and change your body language―change positions, rub your hands, and palm your eyes.
This method especially works if you're at a seminar or lecture, but it can be molded in normal conversations as well. Whenever a person talks and you like something, write it down. If not immediately, as soon as you can. This will help you remember what they said better and when you meet them next and repeat the point, they'll be mighty impressed and really touched.
When you follow these active listening skills exercises and bring them into practice, you will notice a change. People will begin to respect you more and you'll find that people are better listeners in turn when you speak. The way I see it, it's a win-win situation any day. So get to it and don't give up till you've mastered these.