Are You an Active Listener? 6 Tips for Practicing Active Listening for More Meaningful Communication

We spend a good part of our days communicating with others whether we’re in a conversation with our family at breakfast, facilitating a meeting at work or talking with the barista at the coffee shop.

One important side to communication is listening. We sometimes forget that we’re listeners in communication too!

You may think that listening comes easily, but do you truly listen actively in your communication throughout the day?

Yes, of course, you probably try to remain quiet for a little while and not speak. You may even face the speaker while you’re quiet. But, true listening is so much more.

When we try to listen, often our minds will wander.

Maybe a judgment or advice pops into our minds as the other person speaks.

Maybe we want to respond with our own thoughts and opinions. We’re simply waiting until they’re done or rehearsing what we’ll say as they speak.

Maybe the content we hear elicits an emotional response, and our attention goes to our own feelings.

True active listening includes giving the other person your full attention, with focus and presence, holding a space for all that needs to be shared. And even allowing a pause after they stop speaking to allow what’s been shared to live in the space before responding.

Take a moment right now and think of the last conversation you had with someone. Try to bring it back in your mind exactly as it happened. What were they sharing? How were they feeling about this topic?

Then reflect on your active listening during this conversation.

Did you interrupt the speaker? How many times and why?

Did you have emotions or judgments about the topic? What did you do with those?

Did your mind wander to other thoughts, unrelated to the speaker’s topic – your grocery list, the car driving by or the next task you need to do?

How much of the time spent listening were you thinking of your response – the advice you were going to give to solve the problem or the sharing of your own opinions and emotional response?

These are common things our mind does while listening! How easily it jumps from here to there even when we’re trying to listen.

It isn’t easy to hold an attentive space – calmly and silently, for a period of time – to truly and actively listen. We must be fully present.

But if we learn to, we’ll cultivate deeper relationships with others and even with ourselves!

Here are some tips to help you become a more active and attentive listener, holding a space for the speaker.

  1. Turn off or put away any physical distractions such as your cellphone, computer, and TV.
  2. Set an intention to listen actively with your full attention and an open heart without judgment.
  3. Become aware of the nonverbal communication of the speaker including body language, tone of voice and hand gestures.
  4. Notice when you interrupt or want to interrupt. Resist the urge to do so.
  5. When your mind wanders, bring it back to listening attentively to the speaker.
  6. Notice when your own thoughts, feelings and body sensations arise. Return your attention to the speaker and allow them a space to be heard.

Practicing active listening will help you cultivate more meaningful and authentic connections in communication. And the speaker will feel truly heard! Give it a try in your next conversation.

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