Active listening is a method of communication that involves consciously tuning in to what another person is saying.
In counseling and therapy settings, this type of listening can also include rephrasing the other person's comments in order to ensure that the intended message was not missed. In any of its various forms, active listening is one of the surest strategies for keeping conversation effortless and for avoiding misunderstanding.
How To Listen Actively
People often miss the mark on active listening simply because they feel compelled or obligated to contribute to the conversation. Surprisingly, undivided attention is one of the best contributions that you can make to any one-on-one or group discussion. There are several important steps that active listening entails. These are:
- Facing the individual who is speaking and making direct eye contact
- Keeping yourself fully present and relaxed
- Maintaining an open mind
- Visualizing what the speaker is saying
- Never interrupting to offer suggestions or solutions
- Asking questions for clarification during pauses, but only for ensuring that you understand
- Empathizing with the speaker
When it comes to repeating what the individual has said in your own words, each of these steps will come in handy. Active listening as it is used in the therapy setting ultimately ensures that both parties are on the same page and that no part of the message was misunderstood. It is important to note that giving a person your undivided attention also builds this individual's confidence and fosters feelings of trust. This is how some individuals are able to establish a good rapport and a lasting bond during a single conversation. People like being listened to and they are more apt to open up and keep the conversation moving forward when they are given this respect.
People who feel as though their thoughts and opinions are rarely heard and appreciated by others are often the same individuals who never practice active listening. Rather than remaining fully present when others are talking, they are thinking about other things. They frequently interrupt speakers and attempt to turn conversations to themselves rather than honoring the feelings of the other party.These individuals leave most conversations with insufficient or incorrect information. Moreover, they do not make speakers feel valued or appreciated.
Conversation is far more enjoyable when both parties take the time to listen actively. Not only are their fewer misunderstandings, but there are also few awkward pauses and few occasions in which both people are speaking at once. The lines of communication can flow freely when even just one speaker is willing to sit back and remain fully attentive to the words of the other.
Active listening is also great for people who rarely know what to say. Rather than racking your brain for a subject of interest, you can simply spend more time listening to what others are interested in. This will allow you to structure your own statements and questions based on topics that are likely to generate the most intrigue.
When all else fails, you can always fall back on the active listening technique of counselors, by simply paraphrasing what the other person has said and asking questions for clarification. This will often take the conversation in all new directions as the speaker is encouraged to expound more on his or her thoughts and experiences. Best of all, active listening ensures that speakers leave discussions feeling good about themselves. As a result, active listeners tend to be very popular in many different social settings.