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The importance of listening

Elan S
Elan S
  • Updated

Good listening is essential for strong communication. But how do you demonstrate this? Adopting active listening techniques will help you become a better listener in a way that others will truly appreciate.

Why should I practice active listening?
Think of someone you consider to be a great listener. Do you trust this person? Do you like them? The answer to both is probably “yes”. We often view good listeners as being trustworthy. With active listening, you’ll help others see you as someone they can trust.

What is active listening?

Active listening is a practice where you’re truly engaged with your conversation partner to fully concentrate, understand, respond to, and remember what’s being said.

Active listening can be achieved by:

  • Paying attention. Hear what others are saying.
  • Using non-verbal cues. Show that you’re following the conversation and interested in what they have to say by nodding along and responding when appropriate.
  • Deferring judgment. Listen to their perspectives to understand and don’t assume their motivations.
  • Responding openly and respectfully. Tell them what you think or feel honestly and politely.

Common roadblocks to avoid with active listening

Listening bias

Try not to draw connections from what you hear to your own experience. It may not be exactly what the other person is saying. This can happen instinctively due to the desire to share similar stories.

What you can do to avoid it:

  • Resist interruptions. Respect your speaker and wait until they’re done talking.
  • Listen with empathy. Focus on their experience instead of your own.

Speaking too soon

Resist the urge to fill silence immediately and allow others time to use pauses to collect their thoughts. When they’re done, ask any questions or summarize what you heard to be sure your understanding is correct. This can go a long way, even if you didn’t get their message perfectly at first.

Forgetting information or to follow up

Feel free to ask for a moment to write something down so you’ll remember later — especially key details or action items. Others will be happy knowing they won’t need to repeat themselves later because you’re taking this extra step to remember.

Letting distractions win

Keep your phone out of sight, try to keep your mind from wandering, and avoid selectively listening while others are talking.

Practices to use for active listening

  • Reflecting: Repeat words back to the speaker as a question.
  • Paraphrasing: Use phrases like “What I’m hearing is…”, “It sounds like….”
  • Clarifying: Ask questions that start with “Do you mean…”, “Can you expand on….”
  • Summarizing: Recap what was said to make sure you’re understanding correctly
  • Inviting to talk: Ask the speaker to elaborate with phrases like “Do you want to share more about….”

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