We listen to understand.
We listen for enjoyment.
We listen to learn.
If you're finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating their words mentally as they say it – this will reinforce their message and help you control mind drift.
Becoming an Active Listener
- Pay attention.
Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Recognize that what is not said also speaks loudly.
- Look at the speaker directly.
- Put aside distracting thoughts. Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
- Avoid being distracted by environmental factors.
- “Listen” to the speaker’s body language.
- Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting.
Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
- Nod occasionally.
- Smile and use other facial expressions.
- Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
- Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.
- Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is…” and “Sounds like you are saying…” are great ways to reflect back.
- Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say…” “Is this what you mean?”
- Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so, and ask for more information: "I may not be understanding you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is XXX; is that what you meant?"
- Defer judgment.
Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
- Allow the speaker to finish.
- Don’t interrupt with counter-arguments.
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.
- Be candid, open, and honest in your response.
- Assert your opinions respectfully.
- Treat the other person as he or she would want to be treated.