Ever feel like the person you are talking to is really not listening?
This happens more often than you think. In fact, when we listen to the average speaker we’re using only 25% of our mental capacity. The remaining 75%, therefore, has the ability to let our minds wander.
The problem is we often listen to respond instead of listening to truly understand. The definition of active listening is “a way of listening and responding to another person to improve mutual understanding”.
Mastering this skill has a major impact on your effectiveness at work and the quality of connections you have with others. Words only convey about 7% of what you’re trying to say. The other 93% is communicated through facial expressions and the tone of your voice, so active listening is a great tool to use to help foster deeper connections with people.
The catalyst of many misunderstandings is the fact that we under-utilise our ears and over-utilise our mouths. This culprit can however be conquered with some practice, so all is not lost.
Let us unpack some useful techniques to develop our active listening skills:
- Be attentive – look directly at the speaker and avoid being distracted. This shows that you are interested in what they have to say, and nothing is more important to you at that moment. We generally only comprehend and retain 25% of what we hear, so make that 25% count!
- Tactical empathy – really understanding what the other person wants or needs is vital to promote and preserve long term relationships. It is recognising and acknowledging the other person’s perspective to create trust, which ultimately leads to more meaningful and open conversations.
- Demonstrate that you are listening – smile, nod and use other facial expressions as well as verbal cues like “yes” “uh huh”.
- Ask questions relevant to what the person is telling you. This not only indicates you are interested in what they are saying, but also allows the speaker the opportunity to process their thoughts and reflect on their situation. Most people only remember around 17% to 25% of the things they listen to, so becoming a rock star at questioning also enhances your skills as an active listener. What an amazing gift you are affording yourself as well as the speaker!
- Give feedback – reflect and paraphrase what the person is telling you and ask clarifying questions to ensure you are understanding them correctly and grasping what they are trying to convey.
- Listen with curiosity and not judgment – do not interrupt the speaker and listen with the intention to understand rather than to judge.
- Respond with respect and kindness – create psychological safety by treating the person the way you would like to be treated. When we feel the space in which we are communicating is safe, we are more likely to share valuable information.
They say, “old habits die hard”, but it has also been said that “you never get people’s fuller attention than when you’re listening to them”.
Bearing this in mind, I invite you to start practising these techniques to become a rock star listener and REALLY hear what people are saying. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you will learn.
Some material was adapted from the following resources:
Stats taken from: