Active Listening Examples You Can Use To Improve Your Communication Skills
A listening ear is one of the most valuable gifts you can offer someone. Most people want to express themselves and to feel heard. While this may seem very simple and obvious, many people struggle with being good listeners. They get bored, distracted or feel impatient as they wait for their turn to speak. As you've probably noticed, no one wants to be on the receiving end of that. This article will explore the practice of active listening and provide you with tools that you can apply to any conversation.
Active listening refers to being present in a conversation and fully concentrating on what is being said. This practice enhances your communication skills and will make your interactions more meaningful. Active listening can also improve your relationships and your job performance. In a way, it's a mindfulness practice because you must be present and pay attention in order for it to work.
How to Practice Active Listening
Take a few deep breaths and become present in your body. Focus your awareness on the other person while staying connected to yourself. This will help you to be in a neutral and non-judgmental frame of mind.
Soften your facial muscles, neck, and jaw. Be relaxed and openminded without trying too hard.
Convey your interest and understanding by sprinkling in the following words, sounds, and gestures into the interaction:
Nod slowly throughout the conversation.
Make appropriate eye contact, but don't stare harshly without blinking. This scares people.
Saying "yes", "ah", "interesting" or "mmhmm" encourages people to keep going.
Face the person you are talking to with your whole body. Keep an open posture. Don't cross your arms because this indicates that you are closed off.
Mirror their movements in a relaxed manner. This helps people to feel like you are on the same wavelength. For example, if they cross their legs, wait a few moments and then cross your legs. Don't be too extreme or obvious with this practice--keep it as natural as possible.
Ask questions but don't interrupt or bombard the person with too many comments all at once.
Here are some suggestions for asking questions and making comments:
Ask questions to help clarify the point the speaker is making. This will help them and it will also help you to understand them better.
Reflect back what they've said by using a condensed version of their own words.
Summarize what they've said in your own words.
If you feel inclined to give advice or suggestions, ask them if they would like to hear it. If they do, say--"I'm not telling you what to do, but if I were in your position, here's what I would do..." This is a friendly way to offer a suggestion without being pushy or condescending. If they are not interested in your advice or suggestions, be compassionate and accepting of their choice.
You might find yourself in a pinch at times. Perhaps you're trying really hard to pay attention to what someone is saying but you just keep drifting off and thinking about other things. Here are some ways way to combat the distractions that get in the way:
Mentally repeat what the person is saying. Keep your mind active in a way that serves the conversation and doesn't take away from being in the moment.
Ask more questions. This can also help you to stay engaged in the discussion. Try to think of interesting questions that you genuinely want to know about.
See the other person as if they are a character in a movie or play. Imagine that you are in the movie or play with them and that it's essential for your character to fully understand what the other person is saying because the next scene requires you to put that information into use.
This might seem like a lot of different things to balance all at once. Take your time practicing this skill and do your best. Over time it will become easier and more enjoyable to practice active listening. You'll not only learn more about other people, you're giving them the gift of your presence, while also practicing mindfulness.
This also helps you to improve your working memory, processing speed, and comprehension skills.
Active listening goes hand in hand with non-violent communication. You can read about this by clicking here to access a previous blog I wrote on this topic.
I'd love to hear from you if you ever tried active listening, or if you've been on the receiving end of an excellent listener (or not). Let me know what's worked for you, and what doesn't work for you as a listener or speaker in a conversation.