Most people like to be heard and understood because this makes them feel that someone care about them.
But, to be able to really hear and understand others, you need to have active listening skill. This is perhaps the most important skill in communication. Unfortunately, not many people know how to listen. Most of us prefer to talk rather than listen.
Active listening involves listening to others carefully, let them speak without interruption and then repeat what they have just said. This is not an easy skill to master as most of us are so used to interrupting others when they speak instead of listen until they finish talking.
The goal of active listening is to improve understanding between both parties.
You may not believe it, but there is more to listening than merely being quiet. In fact, someone who is an active listener will encourage the speaker to talk, try to clarify any points they don't understand, and be sure they are aware of the speaker intent.
An active listener will enable the speaker to feel like they have truly been heard and understood.
You can apply the following active listening techniques to improve your day-to-day communications:
1. Be attentive. When a person is speaking, make sure you focus your attention to listen to what he or she is really saying without thinking how you are going to respond. Or what question to ask next.
2. Respect the speaker. Even if you think you know what they are going to say, try to listen to what is actually being said. Pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal clues. Body language, facial expressions, and posture can all provide a detailed picture of what's going on.
3. Keep your attitude in check. Avoid confrontation or anger. You are not trying to win an argument; you are trying to understand the person with whom you are speaking.
4. If you want to be able to truly listen to others, leave out all the personal prejudices that are cluttering your mind. You won't be able to listen carefully if you have formed an opinion beforehand.
5. Don't jump to conclusions. Regardless of what the speaker says, don't make assumptions or judgments about what they said. Find out all the facts and ask questions if you need to.
6. If you don't understand what people are saying, clarify it by asking question. But don't just cut out a conversation in the middle by throwing in a question. Wait until the speaker finish the full sentence or when he pauses.
7. Keep your focus. Listen carefully and try to really understand the speaker. If you lose focus, you will lose track of the conversation and other will feel that you are uncaring. So, stay tuned and stay focused when listening - this is the most basic ingredient of active listening.
8. Give appropriate nonverbal clues. When you are actively listening to someone, your body language will show whether you are paying attention or not.
9. Maintain eye contact while you are listening and communicating with others. Do not stare at people! Staring at people can be considered rude. So, don't just look at a certain spot for long period of time. Just make sure that it is comfortable for both of you.
10. Reaching out and touching their arm or shoulder will also help the person you are speaking with recognize that you are interested in what they are saying. Nodding your head is another indication that you are listening.
Some effort is required to learn how to listen actively to others. But, once you make it as part of your habit, it will be just like brushing your teeth every morning. The effect of active listening can be very beneficial in both your career and family life. Good listening skills can make you successful in life. So, it is worth your time and effort to learn this skill.