In a time when communication technology has become more prevalent, active listening is ever more critical. According to a 2018 Nielsen Company report, the US average person spends approximately 10 hours and 39 minutes each day using smartphones, computers, video games, radios, tablets, and TVs. That number comes from 2018-We can only assume this number has and will continue growing with quarantine.
Spending a little under 1/2 of our days with our faces in a screen, typing to everyone, and no one, in particular, has an adverse effect on human connection and well-being. Humans lose humanity as social media, email, and text messages become intermediary of our words. We say things in ways behind that screen we would never say in person. Basically, we don’t talk, and when we do talk, we don’t know-how to convey our point.
I get it, sometimes an emoji is a pretty succinct way of getting the point across. But, what about times when you need to say more? Communication is connection and should be valued as such. Without face-to-face interactions, we lose the beauty of poetic license and the art of conversation. We miss out on intimacy and stimulation. Things get lost in translation, and we tend to forget one of the most fundamental parts of being human is connecting in a real, meaningful, and impactful way. And of equal importance are the physiological and psychological effects, including the inability to pick up on social cues (source-Journal Computers in Human Behavior)
Active Listening 101
Active listening uses your brain and ears to hear with the intent to learn, connect, communicate, and/or be entertained. Listening is a critical component of any conversation, furthermore relationship. To be an active listener is to comprehend and let the speaker know you are not only receiving their words but are also understanding and empathizing with what they are saying. You may disagree, but you will hear them with your mind open and free from judgment or a preconceived attack.
Why Active listening?
Active listening is a coveted soft skill because people with people-skills get the most out of personal and professional life. Think about it, who do you most want to speak to, someone who listens and responds like they have some sense, or talks at you, around you and over you? You want to speak to someone who speaks back and adds something meaningful to the discussion.
Ways to Actively Listen
Wait Your Turn
Resist the urged to interrupt. Be courteous – wait for the speaker to finish speaking, not pause, but wait until they have completed their thought/story or question. If you are in fear that you will forget what you want to say, write it down, type a quick note to yourself in your phone, or mentally bank an image that will jog your memory.
Show That You Are Listening
With both verbal and nonverbal clues, i.e., nodding, leaning in, or you might try “I see,” “hmm, or go on.”
Be sure to exhibit that you are engage in what the speaker is talking about by asking question(s) Good rule of thumb is to ask specific questions if you need clarification or open-ended question if you need elaboration. For example when seeking understanding you might ask, someone to elaborate on a point they made.
Another way to follow up and to ensure that you understand is to repeat/paraphrase what you just heard.
So If I heard you correctly…
Demonstrate empathy or understanding with a compliment, solidarity, sympathy, depending on conversation topic. For example:
I am so sorry that happened to you.
You tell the best stories!
Share or Retort
Now is the time to open the rest of discussion. After you have done one or a combination of all of the above tactics, share your own opinion, experience, or retort.
Listening with intent and without prejudice will foster understanding, learning and promote higher emotional intelligence, and makes you a better conversationalist, and human.
When you have a shot at engaging in a meaningful or lively conversation, do so in a respectful, joyful, and productive manner. To develop your people skills try these active listening techniques for both face to face and online conversations.
Remember, mavens; practice makes progress. Practice active listening to enhance life and soft skills.
For more Mavens 101 sources and references, check our reading list for a run down of literature and learnings that influence Geneen and other mavens.