It’s a safe assumption that you think you are a good listener. Almost everyone does. The reality is that there is always room for improvement. The brutal truth is that we as humans get lazy and depend on canned answers and minimal involvement when it comes to communication with others. As communication becomes more and more abbreviated (i.e. texting shorthand and emoticons), the way to separate yourself from the pack is to be an active listener.
Are You a Good Listener?
There is a misconception that being silent, engaging with facial movements and verbal sounds and summing up what someone has just said is a sure way to be a good listener. It’s a start to be sure, but we’ve all gone through the motions as we think we are really listening to someone, but are actually thinking about something else entirely.
Acting like a listener when you really aren’t listening is a subconscious way of multitasking during the busy workday. When you do this, you make the person you are “talking to” think you are listening, but you’re really trying to get a couple of other things done (i.e. mental note of what tasks need to be completed before leaving the office for the day, remembering when pick up time is for a child after school). We think we are getting away with this behavior, but we aren’t fooling anyone.
People can tell when someone isn’t listening and it can jeopardize a relationship and make the other person feel that they are wasting their time. This is why a good listener is actually an active listener.
How to Become an Active Listener
What is an active listener? Active listening occurs throughout a conversation. It involves listening with your ears, but also with your eyes and body.
80% of Human Communication is Nonverbal
Subtle body language is a powerful way to signal to the other person that you are engaged in the conversation and not just going through the motions. Try leaning toward the person slightly, to convey interest in a point. Nodding, smiling, and making appropriate eye contact are essential when showing nonverbal interest and openness during an interaction.
Pay attention to the speaker’s nonverbal cues as well. When the speaker is discussing something emotional, it is a good idea to mimic the speaker. Nonverbal body language and facial expression is a powerful way to show empathy, in some cases better than any words can achieve.
During the communication, be an active listener by following these tips:
- Remove any distraction from the immediate area (i.e. put away a mobile phone, close a laptop)
- Ask clarifying questions back throughout the interaction
- Restate key points to demonstrate an understanding of the subject at hand
- Share your take on a comment, in an encouraging, positive manner
- Acknowledge and empathize feeling in a non-judgmental, supportive way
By following these tips, anyone can become an active listener with practice. It will not happen overnight, so be patient. Stay tuned into how your active listening skills and nonverbal communication are being received by others and adjust where needed. Once you make active listening a way of life, be prepared for quality interaction with others that separates you from the pack!
Timothy Dimoff Knows the Power of Active Listening
Want to learn more about how to make the most of one-to-one communication? Contact Tim to schedule the Tim’s Talks The Lost Art of Human Communication. You can also order a copy of Tim’s book The YOU in Business to find out more about how to build a strong business from the inside out!