Active listening skills are so important to healthy relationships – and that goes for personal and workplace environments. Active listening skills can do so much to improve communication and it’s really easy once you get the hang of it. The whole point of active listening is to gain a greater understanding of what the speaker is trying to communicate before responding. Most importantly, it saves precious time, energy and emotion that would otherwise be wasted responding to and acting on what we thought we heard instead of what was actually said. Here are four simple techniques that can make a huge difference (and there’s plenty more):
- Minimal Encouragers – Just an “mmhmm” and an “oh, ok” every now and then will let the speaker know that they’re being paid attention to. This isn’t enough, so keep reading.
- Simple Reflection – Take what the person says and say it back to them. You might feel like a parrot, but you’ll be surprised at how little people notice and just say, “Yeah!” and keep on going. The great thing here is that if you heard wrong, there’s an opportunity for correction. If you heard right, you’ve communicated that you’re listening!
- Reflection of Meaning – Take a stab at what you think they meant and say that to them. For example, Speaker: “I’m so hungry!” Reflection of Meaning: “You want to eat right now.” Now the speaker has the opportunity to correct or confirm. “Yes! Let’s go!” or “No, I’m on a diet, but man it’s killing me!”
- Clarifying Questions – Listen and then ask a question to gain more understanding. Speaker: “I’m so over my job right now.” Clarifying Question: “Are you thinking of resigning?” Now the speaker answers and says more about their actual feelings.
Active listening is really all about taking the information you receive, interpreting it, and then putting it back out there for either confirmation or correction. I regularly work with my therapy clients on active listening because it is such a universal skill that can be used in literally any circumstance. It’s even very helpful when you have no idea what to say to someone. Active listening enables you to have a response without having an opinion about it because you’re merely seeking to confirm or gather more information from the speaker. It’s a great way to avoid unnecessary conflict and show someone you’re listening, even when you don’t agree with them. And how often does that come in handy!?
I hope this has been helpful and that it will benefit you in your efforts in communication! More tips to come in the future!