The 5 Simple Steps of Active Listening
Last week’s blog was about empathy – the ability to see the world from the point of view of another person, to share and understand another person’s feelings. One way of developing and demonstrating empathy is to practice “active listening” so that we can make our communication with our partner as effective as possible.
The 5 simple steps of active listening all help you ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they say.
- Pay Attention
Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognise that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly.
• Look at the speaker directly (in an open not a threatening way)
• Put aside any distracting thoughts such as “I don’t agree with a word you are saying”
• Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
• Avoid being distracted by what’s going on around you such as background noise.
• “Listen” to the speaker’s body language.
- Show That You’re Listening
Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
• Nod occasionally.
• Smile and use other facial expressions.
• Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
• Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes”, and uh huh.
- Provide Feedback
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.
• Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is,” and “It 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?”
• Summarise the speaker’s comments periodically.
- Defer Judgement
Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
• Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
• Don’t interrupt with counter arguments.
- Respond Appropriately
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing 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 in a way that you think he or she would want to be treated.
Need some advice and support?
If you are experiencing relationship difficulties at the moment and would like to talk it over either by yourself or as a couple, in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!