You’re talking with someone at work. You’re exchanging information. You’re enjoying it, but after you walk away, do you really know what they said?
In other words, were you really listening?
What is active listening?
It’s listening with the intention to understand. And the understanding part is important.
- Understand what someone says.
- Ask for clarification if needed.
- Sum up what was said, and verify.
Use phrases like, “I think what you’re saying is ____. Is that right?”
Don’t listen to respond
Sometimes, because we’re human, we listen to respond. In fact, before someone’s done with their sentence, we’re already figuring out what to say next. We have the comment in our head so intently, that we can’t actually process what’s being said. We’ve missed the opportunity to understand.
It’s hard because adults have an attention span of — depending on who you ask — about 7 – 22 seconds. By the time you’ve read this far in this blog post, you may’ve already gotten called away. Communication helps people get the most of the 7 – 22 seconds. But it’s more than that, it’s about true engagement.
Why active listening?
It’s hard, but it’s worth the effort. It builds trust. It ensures you have the facts right. And it enables you to respond with understanding. This is especially important when there’s disagreement. (Disagreement is healthy, too.)
In order to engage in true conversation, listening is important. Listen hard. Listen without thinking of the next thought and with your full attention.