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How to Become a Great Active Listener

Active listening is a process that involves devoting your complete attention to what the other person is saying and taking time to comprehend their message. A lot of people are good speakers but are unfortunately bad at active listening. They either start forming a judgment before listening to the whole point, have a habit of fidgeting or constantly looking at their phones, or just not paying enough attention.

Read on to find more about the importance of active listening in advancing your career and making you a better communicator. 

What is active listening?

Active listening is genuine, attentive listening that makes the person better capable of comprehending the speaker’s message and responding to it coherently. . While defining active listening, it should be noted that it isn’t the same as hearing. . Active listening requires you to use both verbal and non-verbal cues to show that your entire focus lies on the speaker and the topic at hand. 

Active listening is an important soft skill that improves your problem-solving ability and makes you a more empathetic individual.  

Components to Active Listening-

The components that make up for active listening are as follows-

  • Comprehend- To fully understand what the speaker is trying to communicate, the listener needs to pay attention to all the verbal and non-verbal cues.
  • Remember- Remembering the information conveyed by the speaker is another crucial component of being a good listener. This can be done through memory or taking notes.
  • Respond- One  can only appropriately respond to the speaker by understanding and analyzing the conversation.

Importance of Active Listening

Before we go into various active listening techniques, it is important to understand the value of active listening. Here are some advantages linked to active listening skills:  

  • Helps build better connections- When you are an active listener, people are more interested in talking to you and feel comfortable sharing information. This helps in creating much stronger connections that can provide you various opportunities to advance your career. 
  • Establishes a trusting relationship- Being a better listener can improve the quality of relationships you have with the people around you. When you listen to others without any judgment and interruption, it helps create an environment  of trust.  
  • Makes you a problem solver- Active listeners are better at identifying and solving problems. When you listen to others attentively, you are more capable of identifying challenges and finding solutions to them. 
  • Makes you more knowledgeable- You can learn something new and increase your understanding of various topics by being an active listener.
  • Avoid missing any critical information- When you pay attention to the details of the conversation, you are more capable of recalling any important information. 


How to Improve Your Listening Skills

One can enhance your You can improve your listening skills by paying attention to small details of the conversation, such as:

  • Look at the Speaker- Avoid looking at your watch, phone, or any other object while listening to the speaker. Do not make it so frequent that they feel uncomfortable or intimidated. Face them from time to time. This conveys that you are focused on what they are saying.
  • Picture the conversation- One of the most effective active listening exercises is to engage your senses with what the speaker is saying. This will help form a picture in your mind that makes remembering easier. 
  • Withhold any form of judgment- If your only motive behind listening is to form a response, you will never become a good listener. Stay neutral while you listen,  and avoid forming an opinion before the speaker finishes. As soon as you start overly focusing on your response, , you lose track of what the other person is saying.   
  • Avoid any unnecessary interruptions- This is not only rude but also impacts  the information being communicated to you. Save any doubts for later, and don’t try to finish the speaker’s sentences even if you think you already know what they are going to say. 
  • Clarify- You can clarify from time to time by using statements such as “I understand that you felt…”, “I heard you say…”, etc.   
  • Provide a summary- When you provide a summary of the main points of the speaker, it proves that you’ve listened thoroughly and ready for more. 
  • Respond- The final step toward being an active listener is to properly respond to the speaker with your own ideas, after careful analysis. 


Tips for Effective Listening

Being a good listener isn’t always easy. Here are some tips that you can employ to become a good listener:  

  • Pay undivided attention to what the person is saying without indulging in any distracting activities.
  • Be honest when putting your point forward.  
  • Be extremely respectful, even if you disagree with the other person.
  • Start your suggestions with statements like “If it happens to me, I would…” to make the speaker feel heard and respected. 


Active Listening Techniques

Using the following active listening exercises in everyday conversations will make you a much better listener, and also serve to improve the quality of relationships you have with people around you. 

  • Smiling and nodding- Use this when you agree with what the person is saying. This will show that you are following their  message and paying attention to them. 
  • Maintaining eye contact- This step is a bit tricky because you do not  want the speaker to feel uncomfortable because of your gaze. Break eye contact every few seconds and relax your face. 
  • Body language and posture- Your body language and posture also determine how attentively you are listening to the speaker. Active listeners tend to lean toward the speaker. People in disagreement usually have their arms folded in front of them.
  • Mirroring expressions- When you mirror the expressions of the speaker, you convey agreement towards whatever they are saying. This makes the speaker more comfortable. 
  • Be empathetic- Empathy makes you a better communicator since you are able to understand what the other person is going through. 
  • Avoid distracting behavior- Any distracting movement such as fidgeting, doodling, or looking at your phone should be avoided while listening to someone. 
  • Provide Feedback: Reinforcement can help ensure that the conversation does not feel one-sided. Use statements such as “I understand” or “I agree” to convey that you are paying attention to the speaker. 
  • Steer the topic in the right direction- It is common for conversations to sometimes drift away from the point of focus. . In such a case, you should purposely steer the conversation back to the original topic.
  • Memorize Important Details- Being attentive while listening and remembering minute details will help you when it is your turn to speak. 
  • Practice- You need to consciously make an effort to see if you reply before comprehending what the other person is saying. Gradually incorporate these active listening skills in your life to see an improvement in your day to day communication.

Types of Active Listening

  • Paraphrase- The best strategy for an active listener to apply is to paraphrase what the speaker has said to clarify any doubt and to let the speaker know that you fully understand their message.
  • Reflected Emotions- The listener's emotional response determines the type of bond that forms between the two people. By mirroring the emotions of the speaker, you can become more trusted and have a better connection with them.
  • Reflected Meaning- This type of active listening involves focusing on the factual message behind what the speaker is saying. You can reflect meaning using a statement like “When such an event occurs, you feel this way…”
  • Summative Reflection- This comprises a combined effect of all the three types mentioned above. This also includes the personal views of the listener, along with the message of the speaker.  


Verbal active listening skills

Some active listening skills involve the usage of verbal cues. These improve the quality of communication and don’t leave any room for misinterpretation.

  • Paraphrasing- By summarizing what the speaker said, you can help them clarify their message. This also shows that you understood what the speaker was trying to communicate.
  • Ask questions- Asking open-ended questions provides the speaker a chance to elaborate on their message. They also get the opportunity to share some additional information related to the topic at hand. 
  • Use probing questions- The questions that you ask should not be simple Yes or no questions. They need to be specific so that the speaker provides more details about the topic.
  • Verbal affirmations- Active listening involves using affirmation statements such as “I understand,” “I agree,” etc. This shows that you are paying attention to the conversation, and the speaker feels more comfortable. 
  • Show compassion- Being empathetic automatically turns you into a great listener. When you are able to identify and identify their emotions, the speaker feels more comfortable and trusting towards you. 
  • Share experiences- By sharing a similar situation, you can form a strong bond with the speaker and also show that that you have successfully understood their message. 
  • Recall information- Recall important details that the speaker may have previously shared with you. This shows that you are not only paying attention to what they are saying right now but also remember important information from before.


Non-verbal active listening skills

You can show that you are an active listener without the usage of any verbal cues. Some non-verbal techniques also constitute active listening. Some of these include-

  • Nod- An action as simple as a nod can show that you are following what the speaker is saying. This cue ensures that the speaker knows that you understand what they mean, even if you do not necessarily agree with it.
  • Smile- A way of ensuring that the speaker feels comfortable to continue speaking is smiling at them. This is a form of verbal affirmation that shows that you agree with what the speaker is saying and you are happy to hear them. A smile can also diffuse a tense situation and encourage the speaker to go on.
  • Not being distracted- You can show your focus towards the speaker by avoiding any movement that could show distraction, such as glancing at the watch, doodling, tapping a pen, or sighing. Also, avoid any form of communication with any other person as it could frustrate the speaker.
  • Eye contact- Though it is important to make eye contact with the speaker, make sure that your gaze does not make them feel uncomfortable or intimidated. 


Examples of Active Listening Responses

These phrases are active listening examples in various situations that tell the speaker that you were paying attention, and you fully understand what they are trying to say.

  • Building a trusting relationship- You can build a strong relationship with people around you using statements like “Let me know how I can be of help.”
  • Express concern- Example of expressing concern while being an active listener includes-“I know you are going through some challenges, let me know if I can help.”
  • Paraphrasing- “So you think that we should focus more on our marketing campaigns.”
  • Verbal affirmations- This includes phrases like “I understand” “That makes sense.”
  • Ask open-ended questions- “I understand that you are not happy with the current situation. What changes would you like to see?”
  • Ask specific questions-“How much time does the hiring process take?” 
  • Discussing similar situations- “I was in a similar situation when I had to terminate some of my personnel.”


More Active Listening Skills

Some other important skills for effective listening that can make you a better listener include-

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Professionalism
  • Courtesy
  • Humility
  • Confidence
  • Empathy
  • Observation
  • Tone
  • Self-awareness
  • Body language
  • Collaboration
  • Integrity

All these active listening strategies make a listener better at comprehending and understanding what the other person is trying to communicate.