What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term “good listening” or “Active listening”? For most of us, it would mainly involve staying mostly silent while the other person is talking and occasionally repeating some of the words they’re saying so as to assure them that you’re following.
While doing so would indeed prove that you have heard the words being said, it by no means implies that you’re actually mentally engaged in what the other person has to say. It merely shows that your ears are working properly.
Active listening is quite often crucial when it comes to serious conversations both on the professional and personal level and can be a major deciding factor with regards to the impression one makes during these conversations.
As such, we shall briefly discuss a few active listening techniques below to help you better navigate such conversations in a successful and effective manner.
It is quite ironic that “Active Listening” actually involves being a vocally active part of the conversation. It shouldn’t be that you’re only absorbing information during a 1-way traffic conversation. Reflect on the conversation with your thoughts and show curiosity for more info. This shows the other person that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say. Even though you’re technically listening, there should be a 2-way conversation going on, hence the term “Trampoline Listening”. However, you should also pick the right time to talk and that takes us to our next point.
Emptying the Bucket
Sometimes while listening we may interrupt someone mid conversation because we are in disagreement with what’s being said. When we do so, we would also probably immediately start pointing out what we perceive as flaws in their logic. In doing so we alienate the other person and dismiss their perspective. It is advisable to wait for the other person to finish making their current point before expressing yours.
It’s not about you, it’s about them
You may at times relate your own personal experience to what the other person is saying and may feel it is helpful to share it with them. Doing so might further establish the connection between the both of you and even give them further validation. However, overdoing this technique may shift the focus of the conversation to you and suddenly they are the ones doing the listening. This will result in the other person feeling dismissed, ignored and unheard.
Pick your words carefully
A person can for instance be talking to you about being nervous about delivering a presentation at work. In an attempt to reassure that person, you can respond with something like “Don’t worry, it took us all years to present without being nervous. That’s perfectly normal”. Another potential response could go like “I was nervous when I first stated presenting too, what’s the thing that worries you about this particular presentation though?”.
The second response involves curiosity and interest to get to the root cause of the problem, it clearly reflects genuine care. The first one though while being perfectly polite is actually dismissing the presence of problem in the first place.
Ask good questions
Asking question is always a sign of interest and engagement with regards to what the other person has to say. It not only shows them you’re listening, but you understood enough to desire more details. In doing so, you create a safe environment for the person to reveal more information he/she was perhaps reluctant to share. People have a hard time sharing vulnerability or unexamined emotions and require a very safe setting to reveal those. Asking good and thoughtful questions helps establishing a bond of trust that allows to the person to feel safe enough to further open up thus further smoothening the flow of the conversation.