Ako ki te whakarongo; whakarongo ki te ako.

Learn to listen; listen to learn


In my last post I covered the Power of Active Listening – what it is and how it can transform your life. Did you use the Active Listening Checklist to gauge your current listening skillset?

I hope it helped you identify where you need to focus your development efforts. Today, I will be sharing tips and techniques for becoming a more effective listener. Because I believe we learn better through action, there is a downloadable worksheet to help you implement this information.


What is Effective Listening?

Effective listening is not about sitting there and allowing others to speak until you realize that your entire lunch hour has passed you by. Effective listening means to listen intently to a speaker, be conscious of the message but also the big picture, be aware of what the speaker is saying and not saying and, most importantly, allow the speaker the benefit of knowing you are actively listening.

How do you let the speaker know you are actively and effectively listening? You do so by taking notes, paraphrasing to them when appropriate, asking open-ended questions and letting them know plainly you are engaged in what he or she has to say.


The Most Common Misconceptions About Listening


There are many misconceptions about listening and, unfortunately, these misconceptions can become limiting beliefs which negatively impact our relationships such as:

  • Listening is boring – if we believe that listening is boring then listening will become boring. What many people do not realize is that listening can enhance and improve communication between us and create more harmony, interest, and knowledge. There is nothing boring about that.
  • Listening means to sit without talking – listening is not meant to be an activity where you sit and listen to someone go on and on and on. Active, conscious listening is intended to create a deeper, more meaningful connection, retain knowledge, use judgment, and become more productive and valuable as an employee.
  • Listening is passive – there is nothing passive about listening when you listen for the deeper meaning.


Techniques For Becoming A Better Listener


Knowing that being a better listener improves communication in several ways is not enough. Knowing and practicing are two different things. However, there are some techniques you can put into place to become a better listener.

Once you have established these and made them a daily practice, it won’t not be long before you notice that it’s now a habit – and a good habit, at that. Keep in mind that active listening does not mean you will always agree with or even like the other person’s point of view. It simply means you gain a better understanding of what is said and what is not said.

Here is a sampling of techniques to become a better listener:

Encapsulating the speaker’s main points; when you summarize the speaker’s main points, it clearly indicates you are actively listening. This will create mutual respect, appreciation, and connection. For example, you might begin with a phrase such as, “So, what I am hearing is (fill in the blank).” The other person gets to feel heard and understood. And they won’t forget you!

Make eye contact: while you might think of your ears as being the most important part of your body when it comes to listening, the eyes are equally as important. Making eye contact is just as important as listening with your ears. Of course, we are not talking about staring someone down the entire time they are speaking, but to make eye contact in between other forms of active listening, such as body language, is key!

Another tool in your toolbox for active listening is body language. If you are standing in front of someone while listening to them and have your arms crossed, chances are you are sending out the signals of, “While I might be listening, I cannot wait to interject and prove my point instead.”

The next time you are in conversation with someone, try taking on the practice of self-awareness around body language. Keeping an open body posture, relaxed arms at sides, indicates more willingness to take in the other person’s thoughts and words.

Show more interest by asking deep questions. Rather than asking questions that would require a yes or no answer, think of some questions which will be met with, “That’s a really great question.” Then start asking away. This shows deep interest on more than just a surface level.


Application of Active Listening

Start small and choose one type of active listening and begin to incorporate it into your week as a new habit. Once a practice becomes a mindless activity, it then becomes a habit. Why not choose one person and one environment this week (for example, your boss at work or your relationship with a whānau member). Practice one form of active listening (for example, empathetic listening) and see how your relationships and your life begin to change for the better.

We have created a worksheet to help you take steps towards becoming a better listener.

Download Your Free Active Listening Worksheet