Why we listen
- We listen to obtain information.
- We listen to understand.
- We listen for enjoyment.
- We listen to learn, (by paying attention).
- Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly.
How we listen
- Look at the speaker directly.
- Put aside distracting thoughts.
- Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
- Avoid being distracted by environmental factors; TV, Cell Phone etc.
- “Listen” to the speaker’s body language.
What to do with the information we hear:
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.
Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying,” are great ways to reflect back.
- Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say.” “Is this what you mean?”
- Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically. Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
- Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
- Don’t interrupt with counter arguments. Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.
- Be candid, open, and honest in your response.
- Assert your opinions respectfully.
- Treat the other person in a way that you think he or she would want to be treated.
- It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening habits are as bad as many people’s are, then there’s a lot of habit-breaking to do!
- Be deliberate with your listening and remind yourself frequently that your goal is to truly hear what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message. Ask questions, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message. If you don’t, then you’ll find that what someone says to you and what you hear can be amazingly different!