Active Listening

A Powerful Guide To Active Listening

Image courtesy of Joee_halloween

We have two ears and one mouth. Just based on our body parts, you’d think we’d all be natural listeners. But we’re really not. You’re born with the ability to hear, but you have to develop the ability to listen. The normal listening mode for most people is passive. Words come in one ear, and go out the other. Important information is missed. Details are overlooked. Reasoning is misunderstood. People feel disrespected.
The alternative to passive listening is active listening, where you’re more of a participant than a spectator, even though you’re not the one talking. It’s a better way to listen effectively. Here’s how to do it:

1. Be prepared to actively listen.
If you start off intending to listen passively, you’ve already lost. Listening well is much harder than you think, and it won’t happen by itself. Simply deciding that you’re going to actively listen puts you in the right frame of mind for actually doing it.
2. Stay physically focused.
If your body can’t stay still, your mind won’t either. Being physically present in the conversation is obviously essential for good listening, but many people fail at it. Don’t multitask. If you’re checking your email while talking on the phone, you’re not listening to that person. Don’t fidget, drum your fingers, or do pen tricks. Make good eye contact, and don’t interrupt the conversation to take a phone call or perform any other task.
One great way to ruin a conversation is to look at your watch when someone’s talking. While you may have a good reason for doing so, it’s a clear signal to the other person that you’re not as interested in listening to them as you are in getting on to your next thing. Even if you think you can be subtle about checking the time, they’ll probably notice. If you absolutely must look at your watch, do it when you’re talking, not when they’re talking. This makes a huge psychological difference to the other person.
3. Stay mentally focused.
OK, you’ve managed to make your body sit still. That’s the easy part. Just because you appear to be listening doesn’t mean you are. Does your mind jump around between topics that have nothing to do with the conversation? Listening requires your full attention, so a wandering mind is no good here. Save the daydreaming for your own time. If other conversations are happening around you, tune them out. Block out all background noise and focus on the person you’re talking to. Specifically, focus on the message they’re trying to get across. If you’re thinking about how they don’t pronounce the g at the end of a word they’re sayin’, you’re paying attention to the wrong thing. The important part is their message, not their grammar or diction. Tone and body language can be very important too, so don’t forget to look beyond their words. If you find yourself in a boring conversation, try to find something interesting about it. Putting up with a few minutes of less than stellar discussion might pay off. Anyway, it’s the polite thing to do.
4. Let them talk.
When they’re talking, you want to be sure you give them room to say what they want to say. Don’t get impatient if they don’t get to the point as quickly as you’d like. Be respectful, and let them talk their way.
Don’t correct mispronounced words, finish their sentences, make disapproving faces, or interrupt to say you disagree. In fact, you shouldn’t even be thinking about what you’re going to say next. Just listen. To make sure they know you want to listen, encourage them to keep speaking by nodding and saying “go on” or “tell me more.”
5. React appropriately.
After they’ve finished talking, only then should you respond. Don’t jump the gun by rushing to judgment before they’ve even finished. In fact, even after they’re done, you still might want to pause to think before responding.
Do it in a way that shows you were paying attention. You can summarize what they said in your own words, to make sure you understand it correctly. You can ask follow-up questions. Offer feedback based on your careful consideration of what they said. Listening is fairly simple, but it’s not easy. It does take effort, especially when you’re not really in the mood for it. But it’s worth it. By listening well, you not only greatly reduce misunderstandings, but you also give people that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that someone really listened to them.
About the writer: Hunter Nuttall wants you to <ahref=”http:>stop sucking and live a life of abundance. Visit his site to learn how to improve your life and your income.

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  • http://positivelypresent.typepad.com/positively_present/ Positively Present

    I’m not the world’s best listener so this post was GREAT for me. It’s definitely a powerful guide and I’m so glad I read it today.

    • http://hunternuttall.com Hunter Nuttall

      P.P., most people aren’t the world’s best listener! The key is to recognize this, and take steps to improve our listening ability.

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      Free ebook motivation worth $1.8 for new member. Please join now. Free and get ebook motivation. I’ve become a member, a lot of benefits. tell the people closest to you .. :)
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  • http://www.simpleproductivity.com Sean

    This was a great post, it is exactly what I needed. Having these points put forward like this will make me a better listener and make my wife much happier!

    • http://hunternuttall.com Hunter Nuttall

      Oh, your wife will definitely appreciate you for doing this!

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    As somebody who has severe ADHD, this is a great post for me. I think we tend to have a tremendous power if we can become active listeners.

    • http://hunternuttall.com Hunter Nuttall

      If you think that this is especially relevant to you, great. But you might be surprised at how bad most people are at listening, even without ADHD.

  • http://askthepharmacist.wordpress.com/ Pharmacist Millie

    I’d really like to improve my listening skills. There are some things especially that take my attention away from the world around me (Netball on TV). Great article.

    • http://hunternuttall.com Hunter Nuttall

      Millie, I think it pays to be focused on one thing at a time. If you’re watching Netball, fine, you’re watching Netball. But when you’re listening, it’s time to drop everything else.

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  • http://www.reenchantplanetearth,com marilyn shannon

    I love anything about listening. Obviously there is only one way to listen and that is deeply. I believe so much in listening that I created two workshops in our on line institute dedicated to it. Please take a look, the first course is quite generous and is free. Can you only imagine a world that listens. I would be happy to engage in any dialogue about this. Thank you for posting this blog and celebrating one of the most important practices there is.

    • http://hunternuttall.com Hunter Nuttall

      “There is only one way to listen and that is deeply.” – Marilyn, if I had to summarize this post with just one sentence, that would be it!

  • http://www.reenchantplanetearth,com marilyn shannon

    I forgot to check the notify me box.

  • http://www.reenchantplanetearth,com marilyn shannon

    Thanks for responding, listening looks a lot of different ways and I commend you for keeping up since that is listening. So what do you do?

    • http://hunternuttall.com Hunter Nuttall

      Marilyn, I try to stay on top of comments, because I know many people like to get a response back. As for what I do, you can visit my site and find out!

  • http://www.reenchantplanetearth,com marilyn shannon

    Thanks. I wish you the best. And if I can help and support your work you please let me know.

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  • http://www.knowgenes.com/ Mark Ridgwell

    Many thanks for the article. This is an interesting topic and very powerful skills to develop (which I think most can).

    In case it’s of interest, I recently explored this topic and created a view of this process – using a map to highlight the main points – http://www.knowledgegenes.com//home.aspx?kgid=10535

    I look forward to learning more on this and developing the strategies for myself.

    Best regards,
    Mark

  • venkatesh

    please give me more how to focus on myambition

  • http://www.socialnatural.com/blog Gabriel

    It’s like this when we talk we naturally engage our brain more to think of what to talk about; however, when it comes to listening, we don’t engage it as much because we can’t wait for our next turn to speak so we can have our own sayings and express our opinions thinking we’re right to make us feel important.

  • Melissa Morgan

    Great post! I think a ton of people could benefit from reading this & really taking it in. I totally agree with Marilyn when she said…”Can you only imagine a world that listens.” My thoughts exactly! I can SO imagine how much better the world of communication & relationships with others could be…if just the simple art of listening (all 5 areas, that were mentioned) were mastered by all. And instilled into our children from the start. I do try hard to practice this, have my entire life. Also believe there is always room for improvement in any area with anyone. Love to surround myself with others that work toward self-improving. Love this & thank you for sharing Hunter! I’ll pass it along :)

    And, Marylin where would we find your workshops???

  • Manojkumar

    Thank u sr.this is a great article.everyone should read this.

  • http://carrotheadandapplemint.blogspot.com/ Moon

    Great article. Good to be reminded every now and then, coz it’s easy to forget when we multi tasks most of the time. At times we get so lost with all the internal and external stimuli that we follow the wrong info which we believed we heard.

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  • conscience

    Thank you for this post because it is what i need right away.i am a very poor listener,hope to improve with this tips…

  • http://www.thehirers.com lavanya

    Need of the hour post. Thanks for reminding me. Its performance appraisal time, and I am surely in need of active listening :)

  • http://facebook.com/increasingworkplaceproductivity Bojan Djordjevic

    Listening is such an underrated skill. And yes, doing so effectively requires that you do it actively. I find the kitchen the best environment for conversations.

  • van

    This is really good I am so glad I found this sight, I struggle with this problem, and I feel very bad when I can not remember what I just heard this will make it easier for me to remember as well.
    Thank you very much !!

  • rukmani

    it is very heart touching iam very impatient even i would like to b a active listener

  • http://www.socialnatural.com Social Skills

    Active listening not only shows you care, but it also makes the person feel good for being able to talk. Most people keep talking because they think they’re cool for being to keep the conversation going, but it’s the other person who wants to talk too.

  • Adi

    Great website ! Read two articles, sensible comments, will visit more often.

  • shilpi

    my husband is a very impatient listener and equally impatient reader… rest ol z gud wid him… i face problem while interacting with him… tell me how to work for him..do revert..

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  • http://www.yoursash.com Chris

    Great post! I found that when I was in college listening to professors lecture often times words would come in one ear and out the other. But when I started tracking their movements and really focusing, this helped with the note taking.

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  • Abinash Chakraborty

    I would try and implement the active listening skills mentioned here in the classes which I attend.

  • Abinash Chakraborty

    I would try and implement the active listening skills mentioned here in the classes which I attend.

  • http://www.tourismdentalindia.com Dental Tourism

    Most of the successful people are good listeners. Most of the time our minds are blocked when we listen to the other person talking. We are most of the time biased and prejudiced.