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Are You An Active Listener?

Updated on April 12, 2012

Active Listening

When was the last time you downed tools and fully engaged in listening? It is so easy to ‘fake’ listening; a nod here, a ‘yes’ there and you think you’re giving the speaker sufficient attention. I am as guilty of it as anyone else!

We need to strive to be in the present, to be in the moment and that requires us to give time where time is required or at the very least be assertive enough to say ‘can we do this later?’

Active listening requires us to hear what is being said not what we think is being said. For that to happen we need to listen first, seek for understanding – ask questions, repeat back our interpretation – and then deliver our input. Far too often we are responding without getting the full picture and speaking over the speaker.

The main benefit of active listening is that it stops us (or at the very least reduces us) from making assumptions and this in turn ensures we are not relating what is being said to an experience we have previously had; we are hearing it as it is being delivered in the moment. Seriously how many times has someone spoken to you and you’ve said ‘Oh yes that happened to me…’ and off you go on your own story. Now your story outcome might have nothing to do with the issue or message the speaker had in mind but they might be too polite (or fed up) to tell you.

So in order to give people the time they deserve when they want or need to be heard start with…

  • Listen first!
  • Confirm your understanding
  • Ask questions for clarification
  • Empathise (because it is never just about you and your point of view even when you 'know' you are right!)
  • Remain emotionally engaged - have a hug, find a kind word
  • Give your opinion – and don’t expect it to solve anything; it’s just about providing another way of seeing things

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