Have you ever noticed how good it feels to really be listened to? It’s meaningful, particularly when you sense that the person you are talking to is truly engaged, and listening to more than just your words.
Listening is more than just hearing the words someone is speaking. Effective listening is becoming involved in the conversation, and we do that through active listening.
Good listeners know that when it comes to listening, it’s the way we listen that determines what we hear. And active listening is listening with the purpose of trying to understand the meaning of the message. It’s full engagement in the communication process.
There are 5 skills we can use to ensure that we that we are practicing active listening, establishing rapport, and making others feel they are being heard:
Number 1: Empathize. One of the biggest mistakes we make when we engage in a conversation with others is to think about how their words affect us, instead of thinking about their words from their perspective.
Active listening, however, is not inward thinking. Active listening means giving the other person 100% of your attention, not letting your mind wander, and listening to every word from their perspective.
Number 2. Listen to more than just their words. Hearing what someone is saying is not enough; you also want to understand the meaning behind their words. What is the speed, pitch and tone of their voice? What are their facial expressions? What is their body saying?
As we learned last time, our words are only 7% of our message, so tuning into how people are saying something, will help you better understand what it is they are really expressing.
Number 3: Be focused. Giving 100% of your attention means not letting yourself be distracted by other things or people. It means being so engaged in the conversation that the other person feels they are truly being heard and understood.
I love the quote by Richard Moss that says “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”
So when talking to others, don’t be distracted by what’s going on around you. Make them feel as though there is nothing more important than listening to them.
Number 4: Practice paraphrasing. Paraphrasing shows the speaker that you are truly hearing what is said and are engaged in the conversation.
Paraphrasing is simply repeating back what you heard the other person say. Be sure not to repeat back word for word like a parrot, but instead to use your own words.
Try this technique. And ask the special people in your life to do it with you. It is amazing how it feels when someone acknowledges that they have heard what you said. This one simple technique will dramatically change your communications and your relationships.
Number 5: Listen more than you speak. Contrary to what you might think, the most effective tool a good conversationalist has is silence. When we are not thinking about what we are going to say, but instead we just listen, it gives us the ability to connect with the other person. What is not said often has more power than what is said.
In summary, effective listening means more than just listening to someone’s words. It means becoming actively involved in the conversation by:
- Empathizing - trying to understand the other person’s point of view.
- Listening beyond just their words so you can understand the full meaning of what someone is saying.
- Staying focused - Giving the other person 100% of your attention.
- Use paraphrasing to ensure that you’ve understood what is being said.
- Listen more than you speak making others feel heard.