Power Conversation: Active Listening (Part 3b of 3)

Active Listening

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In the follow-up to the previous post (Power Conversation Part 3a) we will talk about the concept of Active Listening and then I will give you a useful speaking strategy to help you be an active listener.

So, what does Active Listening mean?
And why is it important?

What is Active Listening?

Let’s start with a definition from BusinessDictionary.com:

Active Listening – The act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech.

Does that seem easy? Well, you’d be surprised at how many people are not and cannot listen to others very well.

Why is Active Listening important?

Active Listening is important for several reasons. First, it shows the speaker that you are fully engaged with them in the conversation and really want to understand their point of view. Second, in today’s fast-paced world with all the gadgets and mobile devices out there, people are distracted more and more from their daily activities. If you can truly focus on what someone is saying, you stand out to them because most of the other people in their life are not actively listening to them. Third, it helps you learn because you are being curious with an open mind and understanding the speaker’s message, which may be new information to you. (For more about Active Listening, please see this article)

So how do we Actively Listen?

There are many different aspects so I will touch on a few that I think are important. Also, remember to have the proper mindset before starting which means to turn on your Empathy, Curiosity, and Sincerity.

1. Body Language (Non-Verbal Communication)

There are a few things you can do with your body to show the speaker that you’re listening. First, make eye contact. This shows the speaker that you’re focused on them and not the wall or some other distraction. Next, if you’re sitting, sit up straight and lean forward a little bit. Slouching in your chair will give the impression that you don’t care or are not engaged in the conversation.

2. Asking for Repetition

Have you been in conversations when you didn’t quite understand what the speaker said? Maybe the vocabulary was difficult or you lost concentration for a moment. If that happens, it is very important to ask the speaker to repeat their message.

Do NOT pretend to understand!
This is bad for both the speaker and listener. The listener doesn’t truly understand while the speaker believes the listener understands. This is NOT communication and in fact, a waste of time.

When you ask for repetition, you are showing that you care about what the speaker is talking about and you are being honest that you didn’t catch what they said.

Example

A: In my free time, I really like to fjakdjakfdaf.
B: I’m sorry, I didn’t catch what you said. Could you repeat that?
A: Oh, sure. I said, I really like to play a winter sport called “broomball.”
B: Oh, I see. What’s “broomball”?

3. Clarifying

This may be done by asking the speaker to clarify what they said or you can try to re-phrase what they said to gain understanding.

Example

A: I really like to play a winter sport called “broomball.”
B: Oh, so do you mean the sport they do in the Olympics with brooms?
A: Oh, no, that’s curling. Broomball is a local sport in my hometown. It’s exactly like ice hockey but we don’t use a hockey puck and sticks. Instead, we use a ball and brooms.
B: I see.

4. Responding

Of course it’s not that hard to respond to someone when they’re speaking. The challenge is knowing how to respond naturally and then doing it in a real conversation. The basic way to show your attention and understanding of the speaker is a simple, “I see.” or “Right.” and perhaps with a nod of your head. Going up one level, you might want to add a comment. For example, it might be appropriate to say, “That’s interesting.” or “That’s too bad.” depending on the speaker’s message. The next level of responding would be to actively show interest. (I will go in depth on this topic in the next post)

Example

A: Broomball is a local sport in my hometown in which we use a ball and brooms.
B: That’s interesting!
A: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun! Oh, and I forgot to mention, there are no ice skates! We just wear regular shoes on the ice.
B: No ice skates? Wow, that sounds hard!

All right, those are the basics of Active Listening. Go out and try it the next time you are in a conversation and I can guarantee that the interaction will be a great experience!

In order to keep this post brief, I have decided to save the last part for a separate post. In Part 3c, we will look at a simple speaking strategy to help you raise your conversation level to POWERFUL.

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