In a world full of soundbites and distractions, really listening is more important than ever. Especially when it comes to conflict, power struggles and the pursuit of those win-win situations.
According to Gill Hasson in her book Brilliant Communication Skills…
Hearing is a passive process. We receive sound which, without assigning any meaning, is in essence just noise.
I’m sure we’ve all felt like that at some time or another?
On the other hand, Listening is a more active process which requires you “to pay attention, interpret and derive meaning from the messages you see and hear“.
In reality, when faced with conflict, power struggles and entrenched positions, listening may be a step up from hearing but it is still not enough.
Unfortunately, in these situations emotions and egos can get in the way. Meaning your default setting tends to fluctuate between hearing and half-listening. All of which can lead to:
- More misunderstanding
- Missed opportunities to move forward
- Misguided mindsets
The solution used by trainers, counsellors, coaches and mentors is to employ Active Listening. A technique which enables you to…
- really engage with the speaker(s)
- concentrate on what is being said
- dig deeper to increase shared understanding
Plus the added personal bonus is it helps reduce boredom and improves negotiating and influencing skills.
Managing upwards, working more effectively together and being more connected all benefit for a healthy dose of active listening skills.
I try to improve mine by…
- Being present, relaxed and attentive (mobile devices away and on silent!)
- Actively trying to keep an open mind
- Engaging all my senses
- Acknowledging I’m listening e.g. facial expressions and nods
- Reflecting the speaker’s feelings e.g. ‘I can see this is affecting you…’
- Occasionally summarising or re-stating what has been said
- When appropriate, asking questions to clarify meaning and improve understanding
- Trying to listen without judging
- Attempting to empathise with the speaker
The best place to start practicing active listening is during everyday conversations with friends or family. So you’re practicing skills while relaxed and with people you know 😉
In the end, not every situation will result in people becoming best buddies. That’s life. Active listening, though, helps you…
- build rapport and empathy
- acknowledge the views of others
- find common ground
- identify mutually beneficial solutions to problems
And that is most definitely worthwhile.