MARS #004: Active Listening: The Key to Truly Understanding Others
Communication, Building Communication, Active Listening, Negotiation, Change
Welcome to this week’s edition Motivation and Resilience Specialist newsletter!
I want to share some active listening strategies with you and how to build your communication influence by developing your active listening muscle.
This week I had the pleasure of catching up with a business colleague I’ve mentored.
We discussed the topic of contributing with influence in high-powered business meetings. I explained the importance of ‘active listening.’ This is a topic that is not practiced by the majority, whether it’s in the workplace, relationships or social.
Prior to becoming a leadership coach and mentor, I was a school principal for almost four decades, followed by three years in an uninhibited leadership, human resources and industrial relations role working with educators at all levels, across Australia.
During my long career I found the topic ‘active listening’ dominated my daily routine; with parents, teachers, students, colleague principals and government bureaucrats. I wasn’t always as good at it, as I needed to be. Looking back at that period of my life, I like so many others in my field, was always in a hurry to ‘get the task done and move on to the next one.’
The high speed of my day was on ‘full throttle’ with regular late nights, missing meals, hyper-vigilant as a result of dealing with daily violence and always sleep deprived. This was the life of a Queensland government school principal, especially in difficult and highly complex, challenging schools. If you’ve worked in this industry you know that the role is one of a ‘first responder’ bringing with it many other complications to your regular day. My work environments were combat zones.
The velocity of the incidences I managed during my regular work day, didn’t allow for the ‘luxury’ of spending time listening to others’ droning on and on about their problems and issues. It was always the same familiar story, issues with relationships, communication, inability in comprehending what others were communicating and just plain ignorance of others in general. To cope, I adopted what I call Sniper Focus Adjustment – a strategy I used to manage rapid disturbing incidences presenting by the hour. With sniper focus, I listened to the key issue/s, asking rapid fire questions to get to the problem quickly.
The behaviours and attitudes of people can leave us frustrated, drained, and at times, powerless. I believe that by understanding the underlying function and adopting effective strategies, we can unlock the secrets of actively listening to others to build better communication for growth and connection.
Communication forms the cornerstone of many interactions, enabling us to covey thoughts, emotions, and ideas. While speaking is undoubtedly important, the art of active listening holds EQUAL SIGNIFICANCE. Active Listening is not just about hearing words; it’s about engaging fully with the speaker, understanding their perspective, and fostering genuine connections. In this newsletter, I delve into the concept of active listening as a powerful tool for understanding others deeply and building meaningful relationships.
The Essence of Active Listening
Active Listening is a conscious and deliberate practice that goes beyond passive hearing. It involves focusing your attention on the speaker, absorbing their words, and processing the underlying emotions and intentions. Through active listening, individuals gather valuable insights, strengthen empathy, and create an environment of mutual respect.
Components of Active Listening
1.Maintaining Eye Contact: signifies your engagement and interest in the speaker. It conveys you are fully present in the conversation, setting the stage for meaningful dialogue.
2.Nonverbal Cues: such as nodding and facial expressions, signal your understanding and encouragement. These cues provide the speaker with validation and comfort, promoting open communication.
3.Asking Clarifying Questions: Thoughtful questions show that you are genuinely interested in comprehending the speaker’s point of view. Clarifying questions also help to fill in gaps and ensure accurate interpretation.
4.Reflective Responses: Responding with summaries or paraphrased statements demonstrates you are actively processing the information. This technique not only confirms your understanding but also encourages the speaker to delve deeper into their thoughts.
Benefits of Active Listening
–Enhanced Understanding: Active listening enables you to truly grasp the speaker’s intentions, emotions, and concerns. This understanding forms the foundation of meaningful connections and effective communication.
–Strengthened Empathy: By immersing yourself in the speaker’s perspective, you develop empathy – the ability to feel and relate to their experiences. This empathy bridges gaps in communication and fosters compassion.
– Conflict Resolution: Active listening is instrumental in resolving conflicts. When both parties feel heard and understood, tensions can be diffused, paving the way for collaborative problem-solving.
– Building Trust: Trust flourishes when individuals feel their thoughts are valued and acknowledged. Active listening builds trust, as it demonstrates your commitment to the conversation and the relationship.
Barriers to Active Listening
– Preconceived Notions: Judgments and biases can hinder your ability to truly listen. Approaching conversations with an open mind is crucial to overcome this barrier.
–Distractions: External distractions, such as electronic devices or personal concerns, can divert your attention away from the speaker. Minimizing distractions ensures your full engagement.
– Impatience: Responding or a desire to jump to conclusions can prevent you from absorbing the speaker’s complete message. Patience is key to active listening. Beware, impatience will prevent you from achieving your goal!
In a world marked by the constant noise of information, active listening emerges as a beacon of meaningful connection. By employing techniques such as maintaining eye contact, offering nonverbal cues, asking clarifying questions and providing reflective responses, individuals can unlock the transformative power of active listening.
The benefits, including enhanced understanding, strengthened empathy, conflict resolution, and the building of trust, underscore its essential role in effective communication. As we strive to foster harmonious relationships and mutual understanding, the practice of active listening shines as a vital tool – one that bridges the gaps, transcends barriers, and nurtures the bonds that define our shared human experience.
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Until the next MARS edition, take care.
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