You can use active listening to develop your self and social awareness skill . Active listening isn’t about staying silent the whole time someone talks— it’s about listening for the info you need, watching for clues through body language, demonstrating empathy, avoiding judgment and bias, and asking the right questions so you can communicate your best in your personal and professional life.
Active listening can be broken down into three main elements:
Attention is the fundamental difference between hearing and listening. Paying attention to what a speaker is saying requires intentional effort on your part.
While reading a book, or having a discussion with an individual, you can go back and reread or ask a question to clarify a point. This is not always true when listening. Listening is of the moment, and we often only get to hear the speaker’s words once.
The key then is for the listener to quickly ascertain the speaker’s central premise or controlling idea. Once this is done, it becomes easier for the listener to discern what is most important. Of course, distinguishing the speaker’s primary goal, the main points, and the structure of the speech are all easier when the listener is able to listen with an open mind.
Even if you are paying attention, you could be doing so with the wrong attitude. Telling yourself this is all a waste of time is not going to help you to listen effectively. You’ll be better off determining an internal motivation to be attentive to the person speaking.
Approaching the task of listening with a positive attitude and an open-mind will make the act of listening much easier. Bad listeners make snap judgments that justify the decision to be inattentive. Yet, since you’re already there, why not listen to see what you can learn?
You will always need to make up your own mind about where you stand - whether you agree or disagree with the speaker - but it is critical to do so after listening. Once you have an overall idea of the speech, determine the key points, and gauge your agreement, you can decide why it matters, how it affects you, or what you might do as a result of what you have heard.
Often when we hear someone speak, we don’t know in advance what she is going to be saying.
So, we need to be flexible, willing to follow a speaker along what seems like a verbal detour down a rabbit hole, until we are rewarded by the speaker reaching her final destination while the audience marvels at the creative means by which she reached her important point.
If the audience members are more intent on reacting to or anticipating what is said, they will be poor listeners indeed.
Too often, instead of listening, we mentally rehearse what we want to say. Similarly, when we read, we are often trying to multitask and therefore cannot read with full attention. Inattentive listening or reading can cause us to miss much of what the speaker is sharing with us.
Choosing to listen or read attentively takes effort. People communicate with words, expressions, and even in silence, and your attention to them will make you a better communicator. From discussions on improving customer service to retaining customers in challenging economic times, the importance of listening comes up frequently as a success strategy.
Here are some tips to facilitate active listening and reading:
The previous tips will serve you well in daily interactions, but suppose you have an especially difficult subject to discuss, or you receive a written document delivering bad news. In a difficult situation like this, it is worth taking extra effort to create an environment and context that will facilitate positive communication.
Here are some tips that may be helpful in those circumstances:
[MUSIC PLAYING] Let's go. Let's get it. Let's get it.
There's a secret to good communication, no matter where you work. It's not how you speak or how you look. It's how you listen. Take it from Dani Sher. Her listening skills have launched her to success in two different professions that appear to be worlds apart.
My name is Dani Sher, and I am an emergency room physician assistant in Chicago. In my line of work, listening is essentially important because people's lives are at stake. People who have the worst traumas come to our hospital.
You are lucky. Because it did not go all the way through.
If you're not listening, you might miss things.
After a day spent in the emergency room, Dani puts her listening skills to work in a totally different place.
I am also an improv comedian.
We'll get there.
I did comedy for 13 years in Chicago, toured all around the world doing comedy shows. Now I do one show a week. It's Chicago's longest-running improv comedy show.
[SHRIEKING] It's Barbara Streisand.
A lot of people would think that emergency medicine and comedy are very different and require a whole different set of communication skills. But actually the requirements to both worlds are very similar.
Both worlds require a listening technique that all of us need no matter what job we do called active listening. There are three key components.
So what's going on today?
And I have issues to breathe.
First and foremost, you have to focus. And you have to be able to quiet the mind.
OK take some deep breaths, please.
I do want to look in your throat, though, as well.
It's very common for us to zone out because we're at lost in our own thoughts. And I think that is a very valuable skill to silence your own noise.
OK, stick your tongue way out. Now say "Ahh."
It's very important to really be focused when a patient is talking to you. Because you might miss some tiny little detail which could be the key to figuring out what's going on with them.
It looks like you might have a little bit of strep throat.
And then in comedy shows, you have to really be focused so heavily on what your scene partner is saying.
Where'd it go?
Where, I mean, where does all that stuff go?
It's so easy to have your own thoughts get in the way of connecting with what somebody else is saying.
Did she just go?
If you're not focused, you could be missing a little nugget that would be perfect for later in the scene.
It's like one minute she's here.
So what's going on today?
I just busted my lip last night.
What were you doing?
I fell off a stool.
Oh, in a--
In a bar.
In a bar?
Avoiding judgment is a huge tenet of active listening. Would you mind just lying down and let me take a look?
Do you drink every day?
If you're kind of lost in the judgment of it, that's when you're losing that ability to do the best thing for them. Are you just visiting?
Yeah, I'm from Ireland.
Well, you'll have a little scar to remember your time in Chicago.
OK, ladies. Ladies, get in a half circle.
And then in improv, avoiding judgment is usually important as well. Because you can be on scene with somebody and they have this idea that is so, so ridiculous. If we say his name three times, he will appear.
Austin Powers. Austin Powers.
And it may be ridiculous. But you have to avoid the judgment of that person or their idea and just do it.
OK. So the X-ray of the hip is not altogether normal, and they're recommending an outpatient MRI.
There is a wealth of information that I think people communicate to each other that is nonverbal.
He's going to be shut down so there's no more amusement parks-- Not that we don't want to go. I don't think we're going to be able to do any of this for a while.
People's body language, their tics, their fidgets.
It's not necessarily he can't have a life or have fun.
You really may have to read between the lines to put together their story.
But I would just say let your symptoms guide you. If something's hurting, don't do it.
We are sisters. Yes we are.
The same goes an improv. Body language is really important. It can really change the tone of the scene and the message of that character that you're trying to put together with what you're going to do next.
We've got to talk about some other moves you can do. OK?
OK, cool. Can we do it over Capri-Suns?
Yeah, of course.
You got to toss me one though, bro.
Active listening is key to success beyond the ER and the stage. Dani's improv teammates use it in their day jobs too.
I work at a software company.
I'm a software developer/manager.
I've been a teacher for over 20 years. The same techniques that we use onstage translate really well to the workforce.
And no matter where you work, good communication starts with active listening.
It teaches us to listen with open minds. And be respectful of whoever we're working with. Active listening is a lifelong skill to try to improve upon.
Finally, recognize that mutual respect and understanding are built one conversation at a time. Trust is difficult to gain and easy to lose. Be patient and keep the channels of communication open, as a solution may develop slowly over the course of many small interactions. It is more valuable to maintain the relationship over the long term than to "win" in an individual transaction.
Source: This content has been adapted from Lumen Learning's "Listening and Reading for Understanding" and "Listening Effectively: Three A’s of Active Listening" tutorials.