Our personal filters, assumptions & judgments of what is being said distort the message.
- Our role is to understand what is being said. This may require reflecting the other’s statements, asking questions.
- Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is…” and “Sounds like you are saying…” are great ways to reflect back.
- Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say…” “Is this what you mean?”
- Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
- Try This:
If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so, and ask for more information: “I may not be understanding you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is ________; is that what you meant?”
- Defer judgment.
Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
- Allow the speaker to finish.
- Don’t interrupt with counter-arguments.
- Respond with Respect.
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding~gaining information and perspective. We cause damage by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.
- Be candid, open, and honest in your response.
- Assert your opinions respectfully.
- Treat the other person as he or she would want to be treated.
It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening habits are weak, then there’s a lot of habit-breaking to do!
Be deliberate with your listening and remind yourself constantly that your goal is to truly hear what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message. Ask questions, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message. YOU WILL FIND THAT WHAT IS SAID TO YOU AND WHAT YOU THINK YOU HEAR MAY BE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
Start using active listening today to become a better communicator and improve your personal relationships & professional conversations.