“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus
People don’t know how to listen anymore. Or maybe they don’t care to listen. Whatever the case, it’s terrible that the fine art of listening is going down the drain with the fine art of conversation outside of texting and emailing.
I therefore feel it is my duty to offer this list of 10 tips on active listening.
- When someone is speaking to you, allow them to finish their sentence before you start talking in response.
- Look at the person who is speaking to you – look at their face and their eyes – do not look over their shoulder at something else.
- While someone is speaking to you do not be mentally preparing what you are going to say back to them. That means you are not really listening.
- Put down your phone or your book or anything else that may distract you.
- Make a conscious effort to absorb and understand what the person is telling you.
- Encourage the speaker by nodding, smiling or saying “yes I understand” or “yes I get it, go on…”
- Pay attention to their body language and facial expression – all of which will help you listen and understand what they are saying.
- Do NOT under ANY circumstances talk over the person before they have finished their sentence. (ESPECIALLY do not shout over them.)
- Paraphrase what they are saying in a short, concise manner so as to encourage more talking NOT to lead the conversation toward you and what you want to say.
- If you do inadvertently talk over a person, finish quickly and then say “I am sorry. I interrupted you. Go on with what you were saying.” In fact, even do this if you witness a person being cut off by someone else. Listen to the third-party then look directly at the person who got cut off and invite them to continue.
Active listening is a skill and as with any skill it takes practise. I have always firmly believed that good listeners are smart. They are more fun to be around and they usually have genuine care for other people. Isn’t this the kind of person you’d like to be?
“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes