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How to Become an Active Listener

Listening is absorbing and engaging what the other person is trying to convey / Photo by Getty Images

 

One of the most important parts of communication is listening. Listening is defined by the Positive Psychology Program as “the conscious processing of the auditory stimuli that have been perceived through hearing.” Therefore, this makes listening an active process.

When being engaged in a conversation, an individual should not just be passively hearing what the other person is saying. It is also not right for them to be too active that they keep interrupting their conversation partner.

Common Listening Errors

When talking to someone else, people may think that they are being good listeners when they are actually committing listening mistakes. Some of the things people should avoid while conversing include: thinking of how they should respond, listening with an agenda, daydreaming or thinking of other things, and judging what they are saying. If they do any of these, it would be hard for them to have a positive and interactive conversation. They would also struggle with understanding the other person.

Features of Active Listening

Verywell Mind says that the elements of active listening are: being non-judgemental, not being in a hurry to fill occasional silences or being patient, verbal and nonverbal feedback, clarifying what the other person is saying, reiterating what their conversation partner has said in their own words and summing up what the speaker has said.

Instead of just trying to connect their own ideas and opinions to what the speaker is telling them, they must serve as a sounding board to them. Active listening means they are fully absorbing and engaged with what the other person is trying to convey to them.

Purpose

The goal of an active listener is to gain other people’s trust and to be able to grasp what the other person is experiencing. Active listening involves wanting to understand as well as providing empathy and support. They should be analyzing the message of the speaker in order to give them a response, as one does when engaging in critical listening. Instead, they should just simply allow their side to be heard and if it is possible, they may offer solutions to their problems.

Active listening is vital because everyone accepts and evaluates everything based on their perception of the world.

Practicing Active Listening

The  article Active Listening: The Art of Emphatic Conversation suggests that in order to become an active and empathetic listener, they may follow these steps:

Use non-verbal gestures

They have to look at the person they are talking to rather than get distracted by the other people around them. They may also nod or raise their eyebrows as signs that they are concentrating on their message. People are also advised to produce sounds that show that they are being attentive.

Pay full attention to the speaker

They must concentrate only on the speaker and not on their thoughts. As an active listener, they should be mindful. This means that they should be present in the moment and fully concentrating on what is currently happening.

They have to watch as the speaker narrates their story. They should try to notice how the other person is talking by taking notes of the words they use, observing if they are imitating their actions, being aware of the small changes in their voice and consider the emotions they are feeling.

 

Active listening is taking notes what the speaker is saying / Photo by Getty Images

 

Being neutral

They should not listen to judge. People are reminded that they do not have to agree, disagree or evaluate what the speaker is saying. They have to receive what the speaker is expressing without any judgments or feeling the urge to give them their opinion.

Resist the urge to fill the silence

Not all moments of silence should be filled. Silence may actually give the speaker and the listener time to contemplate on the things they have talked about in the conversation. If they struggle with silence, they can motivate the other person to go on by using open-ended questions.

Paraphrase

Restating in their own words the statements the speaker has said is an indicator that they are keeping track of what is being discussed and to be certain that they are interpreting their words accurately.

Although paraphrasing may not make an individual feel that they are understood, it can make the speaker and receiver feel that they are closer and more intimate to each other while conversing. This is essential for situations where they may potentially have more interactions, like in friendships, for instance.

Raise questions

When the time comes that they have to answer the speaker, they must refrain from raising their own points or tell their story which is related to the subject. Their replies should be respectful and they should again ask open questions. When they ask questions, they will be able to put more depth into their conversation and reveal the way the speaker thinks.

 

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