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Published on May 27, 2019

How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

I am a huge proponent of the power of communication. Effective communication can make nearly every phase of your life better.

Strong communication skills will help you succeed in business and will positively impact your personal relationships. On the other hand, poor communication can lead to a wide variety of challenges in all of your relationships. It’s a skill that can have a profound influence on nearly every phase of your life.

While you might not immediately think of listening as a key component to communication, it really is. Half of all communication is listening.

To be a really good communicator, you have to learn how to truly listen. I can show you how. Follow along to find out how to practice active listening, I will share with you a step by step guide.

What Is Active Listening?

Let’s start with a definition of active listening.

Active listening, like you might guess, means that you are actively listening to the person that is speaking. It means really paying attention to the person as they are talking to you. This is different that the passive hearing that is done in many conversations.

Active listening involves using many of your senses to listen to the person. It also means giving the person your full attention. You need to show the other person that you are truly listening to them, your body language will convey this to the person that is talking to you.

Think of it as your ears truly hearing, your brain thoroughly processing, and the rest of your body showing that you are fully present in the moment and engaged on what is being said. This is a good way to visualize active listening.

The Importance of Active Listening

Before we dive into the nuts and bolts of how to practice active listening, let’s first look at why active listening is important.

If you agree that being a good communicator will have great benefits in all of your relationships, then you most likely agree that listening is an important part of communication. And it is.

Here’s a few reasons why it’s well worth practicing active listening whenever possible:

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Builds Mutual Trust

When someone sees that you are actively listening, they immediately think that you care about what they are saying. It’s well known that most of us gain great satisfaction from being understood. It’s one of those things that just makes us feel good.

When you are showing someone that you are very interested in what they are saying, they can’t help but feel like you are seeking to understand them. This in turn greatly affects how much they feel they can trust you.

Boost Self Confidence

People who are good at active listening tend to have higher self esteem and a higher self image. This is because they are skilled at working towards establishing and building strong, positive relationships.

People who do this on a regular basis tend to feel confident in their abilities.

Fewer Mistakes and Less Miscommunication

As you might imagine, if you are practicing active listening, you actually catch lots of details and nuances you might otherwise miss.

If you are simply waiting for someone to finish speaking so you can open your mouth, you are only paying partial attention. And this is a sure fire way to miss some important points.

When you actively listen to someone, you will catch many details and subtleties you might otherwise miss.

Improved Productivity

Imagine you are assigned a project. Now imagine the person who assigned you the project clearly articulates the entire project from start to finish. Then imagine that person actively listening to your responses and clarifying any questions you might have.

As you walk out of that meeting, you have a crystal clear picture of what you need to deliver and how you are going to do it. Isn’t that a nice feeling?

Having someone actively listen to you and clearly communicate will make a world of difference in how productive you are in accomplishing that project. You have a clear road map to get to your destination in a successful manner.

Fewer Arguments

Remember one of the greatest satisfactions we all have is feeling understood. This is very relevant here.

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One of the biggest reasons why arguments tend to escalate is due to a lack of understanding. When we feel someone is truly listening to us, we feel much more understood. And when we feel understood, we trust the other person more and tend to argue less. It becomes much easier to get to a good solution for everyone.

Now, let’s look at how to practice active listening.

How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

Here are the steps to being an active listener. This list may seem a little extensive and truthfully, it is kind of long.

Don’t think of it as a checklist that you have to mark off each point as you accomplish it. Rather, view it as a general guideline.

If you can accomplish most of these in important conversations, you are on your way to becoming an active listener!

1. Maintain Eye Contact

You don’t have to be laser focused on someone’s eyes with your own. You do, however, have to maintain regular eye contact with them. This is really more for you than for them.

When you maintain regular eye contact, you are forced to pay attention to that person. It’s less easier to get distracted.

It also conveys to the other person that you care enough about what’s being said that you are looking at them while they speak.

2. Don’t Fidget Too Much

Look, re-arranging and getting comfortable from time to time is fine. What’s not fine is constantly playing with a pen or picking up your phone or looking all over the place.

Being fidgety gives the impression that you aren’t interested in what the other person is saying.

3. No Interrupting

Now this isn’t a hard and fast rule. If you need to get clarification on a certain point, it’s okay to ask politely.

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What you don’t want to be doing is interrupting someone every other sentence to make your own point. Or to add your own color into the conversation.

What you are supposed to be doing is listening, not talking.

4. Watch the Non Verbal Clues

Much of communication happens in a non-verbal manner. That means you can pick up a lot of what a person is communicating to you through their body language and not the actual words coming out of their mouths.

Watch the non verbal clues that the other person is giving off while speaking. If they are uncomfortable, they might fidget. If they are nervous, they may not look you in the eye. These types of non verbal clues can help you hone in on how the other person is feeling.

5. Restate and Clarify

Sometimes when someone is speaking to us, it’s not as clear as we’d like. When needed, restate what the other person has said and don’t be afraid to clarify.

You can say things like “To make sure I understand what I am hearing you say is ….. is that correct?”.

Also, saying something like “So what I am hearing is ….. and”. This gives the other person an opportunity to ensure they are telling you everything they need to. It also shows that you care enough to ask a question to make sure you understand.

6. Use Some Encouragers

When someone has a hard time getting through everything, it’s okay to provide some light encouragement here and there to get them to continue speaking or sharing more details.

You don’t want to rush into it but when someone seems to be in the middle of telling a story and comes to a halt, you can say something short like “and then” or “what happened next” or “did Bob have a response to that”.

Nothing that is going to take over the conversation but small pieces of encouragement here and there as needed.

7. Probing

It’s perfectly fine to probe for more information when needed. Remember that your goal isn’t to take over the conversation, it’s to actively listen to the other person.

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Now when you feel there could be more relevant information that hasn’t come out yet, it’s fine to ask a few probing questions.

Asking things such as “how did that make you feel” or “what do you think is the best way to handle that situation” are good ways to get the other person to share more about how they feel. This helps you understand the situation better.

8. Minimal Talking

I’ve hinted at it numerous times during the step by step process to active listening but, it’s worth its own bullet point.

Remember, to be an active listener, you should listen. You are seeking to really listen and understand the other person. Your role here is not to talk much.

I can certainly have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I have something to add. I have to take an inward deep breath, pause, and keep my mouth shut. I then ensure I am focused on what the other person is telling me.

Being an active listener means listening with minimal talking.

9. Validate

Going back to how we all seek to be understood, it’s a good idea to validate the other person. Saying things such as “I understand how that would upset you” and “I probably would have reacted the same way” makes the other person feel like you are on their side.

Like you empathize with them and understand them. This again will help form trust in the conversation and in the relationship. Validating someone is huge.

The Bottom Line

There you have it. A step by step guide on how to practice active listening.

Strong communication skills will help you in every relationship in your life. This includes work and personal relationships. If you can develop active listening skills, you will give your communication skills a huge boost.

Listening is half of all communication. Do yourself a favor and work on your active listening skills. It can have a dramatic impact on the success you have at work and in your close personal relationships.

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

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Published on October 7, 2019

4 Types of Toxic People and How to Deal with Them

4 Types of Toxic People and How to Deal with Them

Can a person really be toxic? Well, a toxic person does not refer to those who are affected by the virus or toxic. To be precise, toxic people are those who are very unsupportive, abusive and unhealthy in nature. Their behavior is filled with venom and you will not feel any sort of gentle breeze in their words.

In this article, you will learn how to spot out a toxic person, and what you can do to deal with them.

Signs of Toxic People

To make it more obvious, I have added some signs of toxic people below.

Manipulative Behavior And Fabricated Mind

Toxic people are unable to deal with the bitter truth firmly. If you are going to blurt out their fabrications with proof, they will try to change the whole matter with their manipulative behavior. They will titillate you with sensitive words or they will try to frighten you to get rid of the problems.

Inhuman And Merciless in Nature

We know that sharing our thoughts with friends will keep us in good mental state. But, if you are not getting fruitful outcomes, you have to understand that you are spending time with toxic friends.

Toxic people do not know how to put themselves in other’s shoes. They just put on a mask of simplicity. But, in reality, they don’t have feelings for you. Therefore, you should stop sharing your valuable time with them as you will get nothing except annoyance and silence.

Hypocrisy at Its Best in Their Nature

Toxic people have a great hunger for respect, adoration, and fidelity. After dignifying them with these valuable elements, you will get nothing; you will be cheated, manipulated and criticized by them. And, if you are not willing to listen to them, you will be controlled by guilt-tripping.

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Emotional Outburst And Pathological Excuses

Toxic people always want to see themselves in the positive end. Therefore, to get their job done, they always have an emotional outburst and emotional excuse to make an impulsive impression upon you.

We do mistakes and it is our duty to accept those mistakes. But, toxic people have their own rules, they have a tendency to present themselves rationally even after committing a mistake. If someone tries to expose themselves with facts, they show no embarrassment and use emotional excuses as a shield.

Play with Your Emotion And Gradually Erode It

Toxic people always try to condescend you with critical jokes and when you try to elicit your thoughts, they just burst out laughing. Teasing becomes an important element in your relationship with toxic person. They even give you backhanded compliments to belittle you.

Thus, using their toxic mindset, they just gradually diminish your abilities as well as intelligence. And you will have nothing left in your hand other than putting up with these things to maintain the silence.

Well, you probably might have not seen all these signs in one person as there are different types of toxic people roaming around you.

4 Types of Toxic People

To understand it better, I’m mentioning the different types of toxic people here.

1. Conversational Narcissist

There are some toxic people who do not know how to give importance to others. They will talk about themselves but never ask you about your condition; they will only recall you when they need you or they are facing some sort of problems.

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2. Emotional Vampires

These vampires do not suck your blood but dissipate your emotion. They always talk negatively about everyone and compel you to think in the same pattern that they follow. They mask themselves in such a way in front of you that you gradually start giving importance to them. But, ultimately, you will not get any positive outcome from them.

3. Monsters with Green eyes

As discussed earlier, toxic people will give you backhanded compliments. Basically, these are called monsters with green eyes. These monsters feel happy when you feel sad. Therefore, they will always try to belittle your achievements, intelligence, and strengths. Along with it, they give compliments with some negativity in it.

4. Black-Eyed Cats

These cats always do mew-mew and try to control everything around them. They love to be pampered but, they do not like if someone goes against them.

If you are in a relationship with such persons, you will be nagged until you are giving them complete satisfaction. In a nutshell, it must be said that you have to align yourself with them if you want to live with them. But, ultimately, you will lose your mental, conversational and emotional freedom.

How to Deal with Toxic People

Living with problems is more convenient than living with toxic people. But, toxic people are parasites and therefore, you will see these monsters rambling around you wherever you go.

However, if you know how to deal with them, it would be very helpful for you and your life would be much easier to live. We have added some tips to assist you, just check these out.

Get Rid of Intermittent Reinforcement

We are very optimistic in nature and over the time, this optimism has reached to such a level that we can happily put up with the ‘close losses’ instead of trying to catch the ‘near wins’.

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B.F Skinner once did an experiment with three rats. He put them in different cages attached with levers. The lever delivered food when it was pressed. In the 1st cage, the lever always delivered food when the rat pressed it. In case of the 2nd cage, food was never delivered by the lever even after pressing it, therefore, the rat understood the lesson and never tried to get food. But, in the third cage, the lever delivered food randomly and as a result, the rat was completely hooked and fixated. He constantly pushed it but didn’t get the food always.

Well, this is called intermittent relationship and the same thing happens in human relationships where toxic people give you intermittent reinforcement and your heart gets pumped up with optimism. As a result, you will be hooked and your life will be fixated at some point with toxic people.

You should learn to move on without them and live your life happily because random happiness cannot bring permanent relief.

Never Make Too Many Allowances And Pardons

Well, sympathetic attitude is very good and it is also a fact that sometimes toxic people suffer from genuine depression, physical as well as mental illness. But, you have to set a boundary and you cannot allow people to get away with anything so easily.

If you make too many allowances as well as pardons, it would not be good for you in the long-term. Yes, there are some people who are facing extreme hardships and they are not even toxic in nature. But, all you can do is show some genuine compassion keeping yourself within the boundaries.

Always Try to Ignore Their Toxic Traps

Demotivational words are the primary weapon that they frequently use in their implications to detract you. Along with this, they throw words in such a way that you start feeling guilty. Well, you must understand that these are just toxic traps and you should not step on it.

Always remember that you will have full access to freedom if you stop taking things personally. They not only do this with you but also with everyone. You just have to keep in mind that these toxic words are not based on truth but on their own mental reproduction. So, you just have to ignore this and focus on your work.

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Show Them Your Beautiful Smile Not the Curves on Your Forehead

Toxic people have an aptitude to attack mentally, mock disgracefully and diminish shamefully. But, you will not be affected if you don’t surrender yourself. Show them that you are not getting belittled or insulted.

We all have our problems and we also know that we are capable of solving these problems. Therefore, the matter entirely depends upon us and if we don’t allow these vampires to enter into our life or play with our emotions, they cannot suck our happiness. So, I’d suggest you show your beautiful smile when they buzz around you.

Don’t Suppress Yourself

Toxic people will intimidate, bully, pass guilt, and forcefully take money from you to get their job done. They know very well that they are doing wrong and at the same time, they are acquainted with the concept that we are incapable of doing anything against them.

Most of the time, we keep ourselves quiet until someone speaks up. And because of this suppressive mindset, we are gradually being dragged into their mind games.

Well, we have to change this concept as it infuses courage into them. We need to obstruct them with firm minds and make them realize the negative consequences of their behavior.[1] If they are upsetting you, just tell them directly. Your direct statement might open a new gate of opportunity that will allow you to help them if they are suffering from genuine problems.

So, why are you still tolerating these toxic people? Follow the tips mentioned above and deal with them in the right way.

Featured photo credit: Devin Avery via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Tips for Grooming: Change Your Fixed Negative Belief

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