Being an active listener means fully engaging in the process of listening to someone else speak with the intent to understand, learn, and respond effectively. It is a critical communication skill that goes beyond simply hearing the words that someone is saying.
Think about the last time you shared a story with someone...
How did the person you shared this story with make you feel heard? How did they indicate they were listening? Maybe they nodded their heads as you were speaking, signaling that they are following and attentive to what you are sharing, or maybe they asked you follow up questions that signaled to you that they are interested in what you were saying.
Now think about the last time someone shared a story with you…
How did you show that person you were present in that conversation? Maybe you maintained eye contact with them throughout the conversation or paraphrased what they were saying to make sure you understood all of the important points of what was being shared? Or maybe you let out a verbal “Mmmmm” when they shared something that resonated with you. If you’ve done any of these while in conversation with someone, congratulations– you have engaged in active listening!
Active listening is a very important and crucial communication skill. Here are some active listening techniques you may be familiar with that can assist you in being an active participant in the communication process:
- Active listening involves using nonverbal cues to show that you are engaged and interested in what the other person is saying. This can include making eye contact, nodding, and using facial expressions that indicate your interest and understanding.
Paraphrasing and summarizing:
- To demonstrate that you are actively listening, you can occasionally repeat back what the speaker has said in your own words. This shows that you are processing the information and trying to understand it.
- Active listening involves trying to understand the speaker's perspective and emotions. You show empathy by acknowledging their feelings and showing that you care about their experiences.
Asking clarifying questions:
- Asking questions for clarification shows that you are paying attention and want to make sure you understand the speaker's message.
For more information on how to apply these skills into your facilitation of conversations, click here.