Active listening (Receiving) is as important to communication as effective speaking (Sending). If the receiver doesn’t receive the message the way the sender intended – then what ever the sender said means absolutely nothing. How many times have you told the sender that you understood the message only to discover that you never really understood what they meant? How many times have you verbally told someone what you wanted done and although they told you they understood – when you went back to check-in on them – they where doing the complete opposite of what you said?
Active listening is a process in which the listener interacts with the speaker. To really listen requires mental and verbal paraphrasing and attention to nonverbal cues like tones, gestures, and facial expressions. The next time you have an opportunity to listen to someone try to be actively involved by developing / demonstrating these five skills for active listening. (Experts would have us believe that we communicate 40% of the time by listening)
Five Skills for Active Listening:
- Restating and Summarizing: You should be able to restate what the speaker said and or summarize the discussion. The speaker should hear their own words being played back to them. (So what you are saying is …. or – If I heard you correctly you said ….)
- Paraphrasing: You are paraphrasing what the speaker said by repeating it as accurately as you can – using your own words. It goes beyond restating and summarizing because you are giving the speaker your interpretation of what the speaker said. How many times have you made assumptions on what was said based on your interpretation? (Oh – I thought you meant ….). If you met someone in the hallway after the discussion could you tell that person what the discussion was about?
- Non-Words: Listeners can show the speaker that they are listening by verbally acknowledging the speaker. (Green light responses) Examples of non-words are “ah … huh, yeah, hmmmm, oh …” etc. Keep in mind that we communicate 38% of the time by our tone of voice. Try not to sound sarcastic or condescending.
- Supporting Statements: Another way to verbally acknowledge a speaker is to use supporting statements. Examples of supporting statements are – “Go on – tell me more, And then what happened? OMG – I see what you mean” etc.
- Nonverbal Messages: If you remember any thing at all remember that we communicate 55% of the time by body language alone.