What does it take to be a good listener?

When we listen we do not listen only for what is being said, but also listen for what is not being said. Listening has many facets to it. In this article I will cover the foundation skills for listening. These skills will boost your listening ability and increase your awareness. To listen actively will allow other people to give you greater respect and build lasting relationships.

What does listening mean to you?

We all have our own perception of what we believe listening is. And for each of us it can be very different. This is okay. The purpose for actively listening is to show empathy with the speaker. This can be done using techniques and skills that can easily be attained. When you are totally listening to the other person you are aware of their body movement (kinesic behavior), physical characteristics, touching behavior), vocal qualities (paralanguage), space (proximity), artifacts and the environment.

You must show the person that you understand their messages. This can be done by clarifying and Para-phrasing the conversation back to them. You can Para-phrase back to them content, feeling or both. A simple Para-phrase might be:

Person A: I don’t know what to do the reports are due on the boss’s desk in half an hour. I just haven’t had the time to finish them. He is going to be furious if they do not reach him in time.
Content response: I’m hearing that you need to get the reports to the boss in half and hour but they are not ready.

Person A: I am having trouble with my partner she just doesn’t want to listen to me; she never has time, and is always making up excusing not to be around me.
Feeling response: I’m hearing that you are feeling upset, hurt and frustrated is this correct?

This allows you to clarify your understanding of their message; it also allows the speaker to check their own meaning. It allows you both to be on the same page, and to have a similar understanding on the topic.

In order to have a successful conversation you must give your undivided attention, encouraging the speaker and attending to what’s being said. You must let the speaker find their own voice, not trying to manipulate, sway, or discourage them by inputting your own opinion. Feedback can be used when you have some information that you want the other person to know. Feedback is neutral based it is neither positive nor negative. Feedback according to Dwyer, J. 6th e.d. 2003 ‘Is the connecting or completing link between listener and speaker.’

In order to be an effective active listener you must be eager to understand your speaker, be genuinely interested and eager to enthuse and encourage them. These can all be done through some of the skills listed above (Para-phrasing feeling, content, or both, giving feedback and listening to the whole message.)
Below are 10 skills for active listening that you can put in your diary or hang on your wall. Listening is a vital skill and too often it is over looked, I would suggest you take some time today when you are listening to someone speak, and just be aware of how many of the ten active listening skills you use?

Ten skills of active listening:

1. Possess an attitude of acceptance
2. Tune into the persons perspective
3. Use appropriate vocals and voice messages
4. Use appropriate body language
5. Use open-ended questions
6. Para-phrase content
7. Para-phrase feelings
8. Show understanding of the whole picture
9. Manage resistance
10. Avoid being judgmental, or criticizing the speaker

Author's Bio: 

2 cups of a love for life
3 tablespoons of determination
3 teaspoons of confidence
a dose of personal belief
and a sprinkling of compassion for all living things
All mixed together with passion, creativity, and authentic abilities and skills.

Sarah Liddle
Life & Business Coach
Companion for enlightened & authentic development
Email: sarah@imperativecoaching.com
Phone: + 64211600016