Active Listening Skills

Are you really listening?


With all of the distractions in today’s world, truly listening to someone can be difficult.  Research suggests that we only remember 25-50% of what we hear on a daily basis, which is not enough.  Active listening skills can help.  Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding.  When people talk to each other, they are often distracted and not completely listening.

How often do you find your mind wandering when someone else is talking?  One of the keys to active listening is to stay focused on the speaker and what they are saying.  Some distractions that can cause you to lose focus include thinking about how you are going to reply to the speaker, thinking about other things totally unrelated to what the speaker is saying or even a quick glance at your phone when a text comes in.  People that have great listening skills will completely focus on the conversation, pay attention to the speaker and not let themselves get distracted.

Active listening includes asking questions that relate to what the speaker is saying without adding new ideas that will change the subject. Paraphrasing in your own words confirms that you understand the speaker’s intent.  Acknowledging the speaker with verbal cues of encouragement such as “I see”, or physical encouragements like smiling and nodding your head as appropriate helps the speaker feel that you are truly listening.

Another key to active listening is to learn not to interrupt or automatically offer advice from your own experience (unless they are asking for it).  Doing this makes it seem as if what you have to say is more important than what the speaker is telling you and it can feel as if you are cutting them off.

Listening skills are important to your productivity and can help you avoid conflict and misunderstandings both in the workplace and at home.  For more information on active listening skills, refer to the Mind Tools website.