Many times, it happens that you speak for quite a long time and the person you're talking to, remains mentally absent during most of the conversation phase. He or she is simply unable to decipher what you were saying or may even have problem in recalling what you just communicated.
There are hosts of reasons for poor listening skills in majority of us. Often, we get distracted from the voice of other person, our own thoughts, self talks and various other variables.
What is Active Listening: An Overview
It is not just hearing the words of the communicator but way more than that. There is a world of difference between listening and hearing. While the former involves an intense and focused awareness of the speaker's words, the latter is clouded with distractions, disinterest and minimum receptivity.
Technically, effective listening technique is a one-to-one conversation model in which one person speaks and the listeners engage themselves completely in what the person is trying to convey. This opens doors for effective analysis of what the person is saying.
The listener, during the course of active listening, avoids any external comments (except a yes or showing body language signs of nodding head in agreement or showing interest through eyes). Any negative or difficult emotions are strictly avoided and the bottom line of active listening remains to focus on what the person is actually saying.
Most of us only hear 20% - 25% of what is said to us in a conversation and so this means we do need to improve our active listening skills.
There are numerous active listening exercises and active listening activities designed to improve our listening skills. Now that you know what are active listening skills, you must know various tips to improve your thinking ability.
- One of the most important tips for active listening is that you must pay attention to the speaker. You can do so by maintaining proper body language (leaning forward, looking directly into the eyes, nodding head, saying yes, etc.). Replying to him or her by proper gestures and showing interest in conversation.
- Don't be judgmental while listening to the speaker. Let yourself listen to the speaker attentively.
- Practice empathy and step in the speaker's shoes to gain understanding of his/her viewpoint.
- Clarifying what the speaker says in your mind is essential to make a sense of what is he/she trying to say. You can ask questions positively like, 'ok, I understand you. However, my viewpoint is that... ' or, 'Can you clarify a bit more the last sentence'.
- Let the speaker finish the conversation.
- Don't interrupt many times in between. Ideally, it may not be possible, but always give sufficient time to the speaker to speak.
- To understand active listening, you have to understand that you must honestly respond with your opinions. This will send a message to the speaker whether you're understanding the concept he or she is speaking about. After all, active listening is a concept based on respect and understanding in communication.
In every profession, inculcating active listening skills is important. In professions like counseling, active listening is one of the very vital factors as that helps in understanding the problems of the candidates. Active listening in counseling is religiously taught to psychology and counseling graduates in their training programs.
It's not possible to turn into an active listener overnight. Effective listening skills will improve gradually and you will discover your communication skills will improve as your listening skills improve further.