Sometimes you may look like you are listening, but are you? Active listening is an important interpersonal skill and includes…
1) Giving your undivided attention to the speaker
The text you just received is likely not that important. Looking at your phone, the clock on the wall, or others passing by are all examples of NOT giving your undivided attention to the speaker.
2) Being okay with silence
Sure, silence makes many people uncomfortable, but it can give the speaker a chance to think about what he/she wants to say or decide if they want to say it at all. You might be surprised the information people will tell you if you just stop talking.
3) Making an effort to understand the speaker
If you don’t understand their question or what they are telling you, ask them. If you just respond with something, you could be way off, and they may think you don’t “get them,” or that you were not really listening at all.
4) Focusing on what the speaker is saying
Sometimes individuals can hear others talking, but they are so busy thinking about how they are going to respond or what they can contribute to the conversation that they aren’t actually focusing or listening to what the speaker is saying.
5) Being empathetic
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall. Avoiding judgement and listening with empathy demonstrates a high level of emotional self-control. Have you ever felt like you just want someone on your side? Sometimes people just need to know that others really hear and understand them.
6) Using affirming body language
Body language is the fastest way to let the speaker know you acknowledge his/her delivery. Sitting with your arms folded gives the impression that you are not approachable or not interested in what the speaker has to say.
7) Reflecting what they said
You can summarize or repeat some of what the speaker said for clarity. Doing this without judgement can help the speaker to know you are interpreting what he/she said correctly. And, it can make them feel like you support them.
*A big thank you to UIUC undergrad student, Hao-Cheng Hsu. Hao found the GIFs and did the research for the content in this post. His sources for active listening included:
Active Listening. (n.d.). U.S. Department of State. Retrieved July 12, 2014, from http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/65759.htm
Cordingley, P. (2006). Talking to learn: the role of dialogue in professional development. Education Review, 19(2), 50-57.
Research Consortium. (1999, July 20). Active Listening. Retrieved July 12, 2014, from http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/treatment/activel.htm