My boss told me one time that I needed to work on my active listening skills. I didn’t know it was a problem in the first place. The more I thought of what she said to me, the more I started to notice something. In conversations I was hearing to respond myself, not to actually listen what the person had to say. This caused me to interrupt them all the time. I didn’t think I needed to finish listening to what they were saying. In the back of my head I already knew what they were going for. At least I thought I did.
How did it turn out?
I began to practice active listening and let people speak from their heart. I realized that I was insulting people’s intentions to convey a message all the time. It felt horrible! A year later my boss gave me an annual review. She said that I improved dramatically but there were still things to work on and it made me happy. I knew I made the effort and that was all that mattered to me. I kept my promise and I became a better person. So, the point really wasn’t in just listening but in hearing what was being said to me to respond appropriately, not to be done with the conversation because I had my answer.
Active listening is one kind of communication.
The point in communication is really in exchanging information, not so in validating anyone’s opinion. For example, in a relationship with our partners or children we often refuse to listen to each other because “we know better”, so we don’t even let them finish or just focus on what we have to say and in such a way we lose the point of the conversation. Sometimes children don’t listen to what their parents say at all, paying attention to things that are of their interest. We think we don’t understand each other simply when we don’t let ourselves speak up to even try to process why we say what we say. This is the problem.
Paying attention is active listening.
The sooner you realize whether you listen to someone or not, that’s when a transformational period will begin. This is when you can say to yourself “whoa-whoa-whoa, let me hold my horses here and try to focus”. By paying attention in a conversation, you are showing other people that you care about them and what they have to say. If you ignore people, they will ignore you, but if you listen to them, they will listen to you. In case you struggle to pay attention to what people say, you can try repeating some words mentally or confirm what they said by rephrasing it. That will also help you understand each other better.
Tips you can apply.
There were times when I would say something and my coworkers would totally misinterpret my message so I had to rephrase it after we had a conflict. Now I take the time to carefully convey my message to avoid misunderstandings.
- Using your body language can be of a big help to show that you acknowledge the person that is speaking. Nodding your head doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with them, or even saying “uh-huh” can be an indicator that you’re listening.
- If you aren’t shy, you can look at the speaker directly. I know if I feel embarrassed I look at everything but the speaker.
- Try not to get distracted by your own thoughts. It can be detrimental in a conversation, especially if that person asks you a question and you have no idea what’s going on.
- Asking a question or providing an opinion when you feel the speaker has ended their thought may be a good option to clarify what was just said.
If you think you’re responding emotionally, ask for more information. Otherwise, you may end up in a situation that will lead to a misunderstanding or conflict.
Stay tuned for more!