Are you listening, or just hearing?

In this thing we call communication, I would venture to say that listening takes center stage. But, that listening can be marred with various prejudices, internal and external conflicts as well as distractions.

Listening, well not just listening but active listening has become so important in many business situations that employers have turned to active listening training for their staff. This is especially true for those who are involved in customer service.

How important is listening in the communication process?

Approximately 15 years ago, researchers performed a study on the human communication process. The numbers are quite enlightening.

We spend approximately 70% of our time communicating. During that communication time:

  • 9% is spent writing
  • 16% is reading
  • 30% entails speaking
  • and 45% of that time is listening

And while many people claim they have a difficult time with public speaking, I would be willing to say that many more people are terrible at active listening.

As a matter of fact, I am glad you are reading this because I just may have lost your active listening several sentences back.

What is the difference between active listening and just listening?

Everyone listens to a certain extent; they pick up words and sentences but in a discriminatory way. Essentially, we are just hearing and allowing our brain to make a judgment call based on the sounds we hear.

Active listening is the process of being attentive. We listen to each word and if we have a question, when the person pauses, we ask a clarification question.

Active listening means we drown everything out but that one person who is speaking to us. We use eye contact and not only do we listen to each and every word, we listen to body and facial language as well as eye movements.

What holds us back from active listening?

There are a number of factors that can keep us from active listening:

  • We may have a prejudgment about the person who is speaking.
  • There may be other distractions around us.
  • It is possible that our minds are full of other duties we need to perform.
  • The person may be entering an area where we know we stand on the other end of the debate.
  • Etc…

But active listening is a needed skill for a plethora of reasons:

  • To gain the trust and respect of our peers.
  • To learn and grow.
  • And, to completely understand issues so we can better formulate solutions.
  • To gain added information
  • And active listening is one of the best methods to diffuse conflict.

So how do we learn and practice active listening?

I want to tell you immediately that active listening is not a simple task. You must make a conscious decision that you will actively listen. Because for the majority of humans, active listening is not natural.

I am going to offer some tips to help you develop your active listening skills. The first piece of knowledge you must have is, good listening skills require that you not only listen with your ears, you also listen with your eyes, your mouth and even with touch in some circumstances.

You should know what I mean when I say listen with your ears, but…

Listening with your eyes means watching body movements and such to understand what the person isn’t saying with their mouth,

Listening with your mouth is the simple process of acknowledgment with an uh-huh or sure, and clarifying confusing statements.

And listening with touch are those moments when you can let the person know you are there and listening with a simple touch.

Active Listening Tip #1: Face The Speaker

Put the cell phone away and look the speaker in the eyes. Face them and lean in to know they have your full attention. Even if the speaker is looking away while talking, maintain focus, for the most part on them.

I say for the most part because you do still need to be relaxed and there are brief moments you can look away, but be sure and listen to every word.

Active Listening Tip #2: Stay Your Mind

This is an area where many people lose their active listening skills. You hear a statement you completely disagree with and your mind goes to “what am I going to say?” When this happens, you completely shut out the words the person is speaking.

This is a monster you MUST control. You have to keep from making judgments.

You should ingest the words and try to get a mental picture of what the person is saying. But don’t allow you brain to wander; stay focused on what that person is saying.

Active Listening Tip #3: During Pauses

Never interrupt the speaker but when he/she pauses is the time to ask clarifying questions and keep those to questions that are based on the subject at hand.

It is also a good thing during slight pauses that you give them feedback so they know YOU ARE listening actively.

  • That’s great
  • Oh, you must be hurt
  • I understand you are angry
  • etc…

Active Listening Tip #4: Pay Attention To The Non-Verbal

You can gain so much information in the non-verbal actions of the other person. Are they

  • Shaking their leg furiously? He/she may be agitated.
  • Smiling like you have never seen? It will be an enthusiastic conversation.

Non-verbal actions can sometimes tell you more than the actual words from the person’s mouth.

Active Listening Tip #5: Mentally Say The Words

If you discover your mind “slipping” away from the conversation, try using a method of mentally repeating every word the speaker is saying.

This can help you keep focus. Especially when the words seem boring or there is a lot going on around.

Conclusion

Active listening takes practice… Start at home.

I would also add that at the end of the conversation, summarize it for the speaker to know you did listen and pay attention.

If the talk was one you agree with, summarizing will enforce the entire talk.

If it was a disagreeing talk, just explain that you are summarizing it so you can mentally “lock” it so you can think more on it.

Some of you may have some questions; feel free to post those below. And please get out there and practice active listening and watch amazing results!

Lastly, I would like to help your motivation… Get in on the 7 Days Of Unstoppable Motivation Here.

Amazing things are about to happen!

To The Top!

eric tippets

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