It is not always enough to simply listen to a person and have the sense of ‘waiting to speak’. This type of listening will cause us to lose out on important information and deny us the chance to make any real connection. By using active listening, we are better able to learn about other people and take an active interest in what they have to say and offer. This concept can not only improve your overall listening skills, but your overall connections with other people as well.
Attunement is defined as being aware and responsive to another person. When developing active listening skills, this tool is used to better connect with the person and become more ‘in tune’ with what they are saying. Since attunement relies heavily on nonverbal communication (such as body language), it is important to pay attention to the signals that the other person gives off, as well as the ones we use. Key gestures such as smiling, hand gesturing, eye contact and body movement can signal a connection or a break in communication. When we use these gestures toward other people, it can make them feel more connected with us and continue to open up with us. These connections can form bonds that can benefit the both of you and build networks for the future.
Don’t Jump to Conclusions
It’s a common gesture to hear something or witness someone do something and try to jump to a conclusion about it right away. Maybe you didn’t like what they said or heard something you didn’t think was appropriate, so you reach conclusions that the person has poor speaking skills or doesn’t know how to communicate with others. But this quick acting judgment can only harm your business relationships and misses the chance to really listen to someone and make a connection. While you may believe you have all the facts and have reached a final decision, always remember there is another side of the coin and most likely more information to know.
Even if you in fact do have everything you need, you may still not be able to process his thought in way that can be productive or even helpful to anyone since it is based on negativity. If someone says something that makes you jump to a conclusion, ask them to repeat it or clarify what they said. Then take a few minutes to reflect on what was said or done and take enough time to form a logical conclusion about it. Taking a little extra time may seem like a chore at times, but it can save you from jumping to unnecessary conclusions and ruining the chance to build a relationship with another coworker.
Shift Your Focus
Naturally, we often think of ourselves as Number One. We’re the first person we try to take care of and try to guard ourselves when necessary. But when it comes to active listening, the role is often reversed in order to focus on the other person. In order to actively listen, we must shift the focus from ourselves to the person speaking at the time and become attune to what they are saying. Steps should include turning to face the person and making eye contact with them. During the conversation, nod your head periodically and give them time to pause or rest before talking yourself.
When they have finished, stay focused on them by asking questions about what they have said. Don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify something you didn’t catch or something you may have missed. By shifting your focus to them instead of on your thoughts, you should be able to remember and comprehend most of what was said. From here you can be able to offer suggestions or opinions and engage in open conversation with the person. They’ll be more likely to openly share with you if they feel as though you can focus on them as well as yourself.
Don’t Discount Feelings
One of the biggest faults many of us have is the need to ‘fix’ things when we hear something that has gone wrong. When we get some bad news or information about a bad situation, we often try to follow it up with “It’s not so bad” or “It could be worse”. While this may seem like a helpful gesture, it can actually cause more damage than good because it makes the other person feel as though their feelings about the situation are invalid or void.
It gives the impression that you are not necessarily listening to the problem, but imply trying to brush it over and discount their feelings altogether. When a person is speaking about something they feel strongly about, whether it is about work or personal situations, it is important to recognize that it is the way they feel and that they are entitled to feel that way. Instead of trying to smooth the problem over, listen to what the person is saying and how they are feeling and offer support. Let them know you are there to help and can always lend an ear. They will appreciate the gesture much more than any half-hearted solution or smooth-over phrase.