Here are the tools you need to be a good communicator in a relationship.
Active listening is an acquired skill that can help people build better relationships and reduce conflicts. Good listening comes from the same place love comes from ... a focus and concentration on the other person. When we are in a conversation, most of the time we just cannot wait until the other person is finished talking so we can tell our tale. In fact, most of the time, we do not wait. If you feel like saying?
"I'm sorry, is the middle of my sentence interrupting the start of yours"?
Then you know what it feels like not to be listened to
Further, we have internal conversations going on that distract us from paying real attention to the conversation. We may also bring our own agendas into a conversation, a preconceived point of view, the need to be right, thus being argumentative. Active listening demands that we're open to the other person's point of view.
Active listening means being aware of both the visual messages as well the auditory. Much of our message is transmitted through body language, gestures, and intonation. Listening is like loving. The focus is off yourself, and on the other person. That person feels good ? knowing that you care enough to listen to them.
An active listener makes us feel important. They make us feel that what we're saying is important.
It is usually the case that whenever we are really interested in someone else we become acutely self-conscious about our own performance and appearance. We want to impress them by not being a complete fool. If you really want to impress someone try actively listening to them instead of focussing upon yourself and your own internal dialogue.
So, How Is It Done?
It is simple. Communication is about transmitting meaning and feeling. The active listener is part of making that happen. The main goal, while listening, is to let the speaker know that their message has been received clearly. Now you don't have to make a job of it, and active listening is not needed at all times, but when it is important, here are a few tips:
- Through gestures or verbally, pick times to let the speaker know that you've gotten their exact meaning.
- If you are unclear as to their meaning, pick a good spot and ask a question such as, "I'm hearing you say..., is that right?"
- Contribute to their conversation, their meaning, without espousing your own agenda. Do this by asking questions about their line of thought, about their story, or ideas. However be careful not to be their interpreter. Most of us don't need someone else to tell us what we are thinking or saying.
Keep It Up!
Remember the main job of the active listener is to allow, even encourage, the speaker to talk, to get their meaning across. If they are having some difficulty, as some of us do in being expressive, an active listener attempts to assist by offering words or ideas that may assist in the translation of their meaning.
The frequent use of "who, what, where, and when" is a good idea and will assist in moving the conversation toward better understanding.
The prime rule of active listening is to encourage the speaker to talk, to promote his/her willingness to communicate. A conversation in which one person dominates is not a conversation. That is usually referred to as a lecture
So adhere to a few simple and obvious rules of the road.
- Do not criticise to the point that conversation is shut down,
- Do not fake listening, most people are pretty insightful and will spot dishonesty a mile away....
- Be aware of your internal dialogue that is going on. If it is distracting from listening to the speaker, shut it off. However, if it is about really understanding and personalising the information being spoken, then keep it, and return to the conversation. If you need a moment to do that, then ask for a pause, or ask a question.
Finally, here is one sure fire way to determine if you are being an active listener. Just summarise what the speaker is saying, and if you hear, "that's it...exactly", you know you are right on.
So educate those around you to be active listeners also, then when it is your time to speak in the conversation, you will have the benefit of having your meaning precisely transferred. Good relationships, as well as success in our knowledge based society is largely dependent on good communications skills.
This article is adapted for this site from the Living Large Network (tm).