Active listening – or empathic listening – is a type of listening in which the focus is put on the speaker. The listener pays full attention to the speaker’s discourse and, at the end of the process, s/he is capable of offering a full response, based on what s/he has listened to. There are certified trainers and courses that teach the basics and advanced techniques of and for building active listening skills. But here are a few ways through which you can cultivate your daily active listening skills.
Steps to Develop Active Listening Skills
Always show that you are actively listening. The first step in cultivating your active listening skills is to respond in certain moments of pause. When your partner in dialogue has taken a moment to pause, you can nod, or say “uh-huh”. This will encourage them to continue their discourse, reinforcing their belief that you are listening to them. In other words: pay attention.
Use non-verbal language to show them that you are paying attention: look at your partner in dialogue director, smile & use other facial expressions. Place your body in such a way that it will tell your partner that you are open and inviting to dialogue. Often times we are not wary of our body’s posture. This will surely come in handy in cultivating your active listening skills.
Reassure the speaker that you are actively listening. This can very easily be done so by offering feedback. So put aside any filters, assumptions, judgments or any other such biases. One other means of offering feedback is through paraphrase. This will not only help you make sure that you received the message correctly, but it will also reassure your partner that you were paying attention to their phrasing and choice of words. Offering feedback and paraphrasing is a prerequisite in such situations for cultivating your active listening skills.
Make sure that, at the end of the speaking—paraphrasing process, you respond appropriately. That is, respectfully and understandingly. Even if your points of view differ, the most important thing to remember is that you gain information and both insight and perspective. Defer any judgmental thoughts or verbal aggressiveness. Respectfully asserting one’s opinions is the fourth step in cultivating active listening skills.
Be patient. It might be boring at some points, especially when your partner seems to have a Proustian verbal stream. But remember that, as with books, in a way, being patient with the other will prove of great value. Not only it makes you more empathic, but it will also create a bonding process that will bring the two of you closer. This is available for both coworkers or friends. The more patient you are, the better you can understand what actually it is being said.
Using these five steps will undoubtedly help you cultivate or enhance your active listening skills. They will prove of great value and use whenever there is a conflict between two people. It will also help you better understand the other’s point of view and way of thinking. And remember that what goes around comes around. Put yourself in his/ her shoes. And, of course, it is worth mentioning that these five steps can be practiced during our day-to-day activities. All it needs is a little exercise.
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