In order to be successful in LIFE, you must be an ACTIVE listener.
Oh, wait... what? My thoughts drifted elsewhere for a moment, what were you saying?
I can tell we have some work to do here!
Why do you want to BE an active listener, anyway?? When you listen to someone - and I don't mean HEAR, I mean LISTEN.
- HEARING is the physical act of soundwaves falling on your ears, and interpreted by your brain as sound. *Science* This is PASSIVE - it requires no effort.
- LISTENING involves paying attention to the sound we heard and understanding it. This is ACTIVE.
Listening is important through our entire lives, and affects the quality of our relationships. It's needed for learning, enjoyment, understanding and obtaining information.
Remember the Charlie Brown cartoons? Anytime an adult would talk, the kids would just hear WAH-WAH-WAH... As you can see in the clip below, it quickly puts Peppermint Patty to sleep! That's the opposite of the response we're going for!
DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?
It's not only a title of a famous song, but it's also a question we should ask ourselves about communicating. Do you understand what another person is going through, do you understand their perspective? I've talked about Empathy in other posts and really believe this is a vital skill to have to be a Successful Person going through this thing called Life. We truly each live in our own Reality and it's easy to be wrapped up in what WE are thinking/feeling/perceiving without realizing how life is impacting someone else.
For many years, I have honed this skill. As a designer, I must go through a process of gathering information and glean from the client what they desire in a project, even if they cannot readily put it into words. I would be a meeting with someone in sales, and the customer(s) - many times, the salesperson and I heard differing information. My preference was to put what was heard into Notes, sending them to the customer in a format: "this is what I heard you say." Clarity. Communication.
The only way you can effectively LISTEN to someone else is to Be Present. Distractions put away and put forth your undivided attention. We live in a WORLD of distraction, so that seems nearly impossible. From the moment we awaken every day, information inundates our brains - and we can only process SO much at a time! A wonderful way to be able to calm our minds and be able to really have the ability to FOCUS on particular tasks is to create Inner Peace. Again, that sounds like a tall order, but that may easily be improved by consistent practice of breathing exercises and meditation.
Give the other person cues that you are listening - that may be an occasional nod, appropriate facial expressions, inviting body posture, affirmative comments appropriate to the conversation. Active listening can include you being a participant in the conversation!
Cedric Harris is great at teaching active listening - I've listened to an example of him go through this process. Listen to what the other person says and continue the conversation, based on their responses. The conversation should flow naturally - people love to talk about themselves! A huge lesson I took from him is: don't keep trying to think of question after question ahead of time - let the conversation flow naturally.
During that conversation, don't build judgments while you are listening. Be objective - suspend your own beliefs and judgments while listening. Understand and empathize.
- Look the other person in the eye.
- Set aside all distractions (mental and external).
- Listen not only to words but body language of the other person.
- Give the other person indications that you are listening.
- Provide feedback (written or verbal) such as: "what I'm hearing you say is..." or ask clarifying questions. Summarize comments.
- Set aside judgement.
- Be respectful. (No description needed! Hopefully!)
Do you realize we have TWO ears and ONE mouth for a reason? It's to listen twice as much as we speak!! (Notice I said Listen, not Hear.)
Active listening requires CONCENTRATION and is a skill you willl build with practice. You will need to work on breaking bad habits that are not serving you and your Purpose. But it will become much easier with time and being an amazing listener will be second nature.
Good luck! I can't wait to HEAR about your success! I know you'd love to tell your story!
P.S. If you want to get better and better at telling your story, check this out!