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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

The Skill That Most People Don’t Have: Active Listening

The Skill That Most People Don’t Have: Active Listening

Active listening is an active process, it is not just simply giving attention to the speakers, but also to show the verbal and non-verbal signs at the same time to let people know you are really digesting what they are saying.

Video Summary

Most people are not really listening

The average person talks at about 225 words per minute, but we can listen at up to 500 words per minute.[1] So our minds are filling in those other 275 words. This shows that we easily succumb to distraction and that efforts are necessary when we want to actively listen to the speakers.

Another reason is hinted by our egocentric self. We love being the spotlight and the centre of conversation, and talking can help us to achieve that! That’s why we tend to listen more than we speak.

How active listening skills make you look much smarter

When you’re actively listening, you’ll make constant feedback. This would make your colleagues and boss think that you’re smart enough to give immediate response and contributing a lot.

How active listening skills make you a charismatic person

“The irony of being a good conversationalist is that talking isn’t the most important piece; listening is what makes you memorable.”

The essence of being a good communicator is your role played in LISTENING, not talking. Imagine that when you come to a friend and talk about a issue that troubles he/she recently, what you are seeking for is a pair of empathetic ears, and an embracing heart. You are not really trying to ask for another person to solve the problem, you just want the other to listen and UNDERSTAND. So, when you actively listen to him/her, you can better understand the person’s situation by detecting his/her emotional changes, the way he/she speaks, and so you can make thoughtful comments to him/her.

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Here’re some useful ways to become an more active listener!

Active listening skills: verbal signs

Paraphrase and make a brief summary

After listening, you can make a short response by briefly summarising the content. When you paraphrase, it can also help your understand what the conversation really means by having you to present the same thing in a different way. Meanwhile, your speaker can also get a chance to clarify when he/she finds something is mis-understood.

Ask questions to show your interest or to clarify

By raising questions, your speaker will think that they are being given attention to and that you are really listening to them. You can show your interest in that topics by asking for more details.

For example, when your boss comes to you in the morning and assign you with a bunch of tasks, and say that every task is highly important and deadline are all hitting very soon. But throughout his conversation, you can notice some particular tasks that he places an emphasis on. So, when your boss have done his talking, you can ask “So it looks like that A and B takes more time and are the focus of the company’s current strategies. So, should I first work on these two projects first?”. And then your boss will be amazed that you really”get” him and know his point, so he will think that YOU are a worker that really understand him and think you two share similar thoughts, so he will like you more and develop a closer relationship!

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Active listening skills: non verbal signs

Make appropriate eye contact

Having eye contact with your speaker is natural and encouraging to the speaker. It shows that you are really listening and trying to understand the content.

But pay attention to your way of looking at others, make sure it is gentle, not too firm and intimidating. Also, be aware of the duration of each eye contact because shy speakers may find themselves feeling embarrassed.

Keep your posture open and welcoming

An open and welcoming gesture can really help the speaker to communicate better. For example, by leaning forward, resting your head on one your hand can show that you are actively listening and welcome the speaker the speak more!

Nod and smile

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Nodding and smiling while you listen are also very positive and affirming signs to the speaker. You show that you are agreeing with what he/she said and everyone LOVES being agreed on. Also, you show that you like the content as well, not hating it!

For example, when your colleague has her presentation on her approach to the problem displayed. When you nod and smile when you find yourself agreeing with her point, that can be really affirming signs to her, and she LOVES it. That assuring actions instantly reduce her fear and feel more confident to continue her point. Your active listening is especially more empowering when most people in the meeting are looking bored and crossing their arms!

One little trick: mimic the body language of the speaker

A little trick of doing the non-verbal communication is that you can simply MIMICK the body language of your speaker! This trick is especially helpful when your speaker talk about an emotional incident. This will make them feel that you really empathize with them.

Want to learn more about active listening skills and be an effective communicator?

3 books we highly recommend:

The Lost Art of Listening, by Michael P. Nichols PhD

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This practical books shares some insights on how to become a better listener, as well as to communicate your idea more effectively. Michael vividly guides you by giving examples of real life situation, easy- to-grasp techniques and practical exercise that you can work on at home.

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, by Mark Goulston M.D.

This book particularly suits those who work in the business field. This former business coach shares insights on the art of persuading people, and the key role of listening played in that. It emphasises on how effective listening helps you show show your empathy, and so bridges the gap and break the walls between you and your resistant-looking clients.

Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others, by Andrew Sobel

This absorbing book has its focus on the skills of asking questions. It highlights the powerful impact of an inquisitive and provoking question by sharing the real conversations made by 35 CEO, billionaires and friends. It also thoughtfully provides more than 200 questions that readers can apply when facing challenges at work.

Reference

More by this author

Lilian Tang

Traveller, food lover (especailly sushi!)

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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