Practicing Active Listening Skills

Written by: Joshua Calarino

I like to think of listening as one of the most important things anyone can do. Listening to others allows you to learn. It can be the thing that someone who confides in you wants you to do. Not to judge nor to help solve problems. Nor to even speak. They may want you to listen and only listen. Listening allows you to understand someone’s perspective, especially when someone has a different opinion than you. I have found that often people forget to listen, to listen to someone without reservation. Instead of having a regular conversation that both parties come to an understanding, you have an argument that leads nowhere. I am going to share some things I do to help myself be a better listener.

When I listen, I like to come from a place of not knowing, even if I do. I want to hear as if I am someone discovering a new universe because, to me, I am. The individual sharing with me has a lifetime of different experiences, thoughts, and feelings. So if we share the same experience, we processed it in entirely different ways. So I always come at it with a want for them to tell me, not for me to assume.

Listening to someone else speak involves a lot of brainpower and interpretation. Despite your best efforts, there may be miscommunication or misunderstanding about what was said.  The best thing to do to keep a good understanding as you listen is to ask questions; it also shows you are listening. You can ask for clarification or rephrase a sentence to be sure you heard correctly.

I have gone and given a couple of my thoughts about listening, but now I want to provide you with some real tips. These tips you can implement into your everyday life and see how they change your conversations:

1. Restating- To show you are listening, repeat every so often what you think the person said — not by parroting, but by paraphrasing what you heard in your own words. For example, “Let’s see if I’m clear about this…”

2. Validation- Acknowledge the individual’s problems, issues, and feelings. Listen openly and with empathy, and respond in an interested way — for example, “I appreciate your willingness to talk about such a difficult issue. . .”

3. Minimal encouragers- Use brief, positive prompts to keep the conversation going and show you are listening — for example, “umm-hmmm,” “Oh?” “I understand,” “Then?” “And?” 

4. Reflecting- Instead of just repeating, reflect the speaker’s words in terms of feelings — for example, “This seems really important to you…” 

5. Effective pause- Deliberately pause at critical points for emphasis. This will tell the person you are saying something that is very important to them.

You can find these tips and more can be found at here:
http://www.advancingstates.org/documentation/I_R/ActiveListening.pdf

I have always challenged myself to be a more engaged listener, to be a better listener. Below is a very informative video that has helped me do just that. I hope it can help you too.

You can view the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1vskiVDwl4

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