"Did you hear what I just said?" We all know what it’s like to talk to somebody who is obviously not listening to us. And most of us are guilty of "half-listening" to a friend on the phone or one sitting across the table.
These "hearing" problems ARE correctable, but the process has to be learned. Active listening gives us the tools we need to travel the two-way street of real communication.
What is active listening?
Active listening means much more than hearing a voice, making eye contact, and nodding at appropriate intervals. It requires being really present - hearing the words, following meaning, and trying to understand what the speaker wants to communicate.
Use these methods to practice active listening:
1. Pay attention to the words the other person is saying. No multitasking. We truly can’t listen well if we’re keeping an eye on the TV, texting, or thinking about something else.
2. Be aware of the non-verbal signals the other person is giving us. Tone of voice, body language, facial expressions - these all help us understand what the person is really saying.
3. Learn how to paraphrase or summarize the message to reinforce your understanding and make it clear that you are paying attention.
If you are listening but can't quite see where the conversation is going, ask a question. Confusion is another form of distraction.
Try these active learning exercises with friends and family and find out how well you actually listen to one another. It may be an eye-opening experience!