There is an art to listening. You may believe you are listening when others speak but are you really concentrating on what the speaker is saying? If asked, would you be able to repeat back to the speaker what they’ve said?
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” – from educator and author Dr. Stephen R. Covey
With your colleagues and friends, your spouse or children the only way to understand what someone is saying is by actively listening to them. Active listening is not a one stop shop as there are many ingredients that signal to the speaker you are listening to them. There are verbal and non-verbal responses you can offer to let the speaker know you are listening.
When actively listening, look at the speaker, don’t glare but show you are focused on them. While focusing on what is being said hold your responses, if any, until the speaker completes their thought. Avoid rushing to respond, digest what the speaker has said and reflect on their position. It’s okay to repeat back to the speaker what they’ve said to clarify that you understand their message. You may do so by saying to the speaker “So what I am hearing you say is….” Or “Allow me to repeat what you’ve said so I completely understand you.” If something is said and you don’t understand or follow the point, ask for clarification.
Active listening may be easier for some than others, so if you need the speaker to slow down or simplify then kindly ask them to do so. Sometimes I will let the speaker know that what they have to say is important to me and I want to better understand their position. By doing this the speaker is acknowledged and they know I am present and listening to them.
In the field of conflict resolution and as conflict resolution practitioners the ability to actively listen is essential. Professional mediator and author Dr. Tammy Lenski* penned the following about lessons learned from a good mediator: “We don’t listen with our answer running. Instead we listen with our ears tuned to the curiosity channel.” Tune in to the curiosity channel when someone is speaking to you, and you will find that the message will be received loud and clear.
* For more information please link to Dr. Lenski’s article here: https://lenski.com/secret-to-good-listening/