What My Father Taught Me About Active Listening
My father always told me to "listen before you speak." If you don't know him it's important you know that he is a very wise man. Throughout his professional career, whether he is talking to his mentor, coworker, or customer base he listens with attention and focus! His way of active listening prompts trust in those he is talking to. Like most salesmen, he objective isn’t to just make a sale; he is truly invested in each conversations he has with others. If you're in sales you know this is an incredibly genuine skill to attain! My father is a phenomenal active listener, and after seeing it affect his business and relationships in a positive way, I knew I wanted to develop good listening habits just like him!
Unfortunately, active listening is a practice that has fallen by the wayside. Due to our current environments, this skill is less commonly displayed than it used to be. Today, we are so distracted by little red notifications showing on our smartphones, and seemingly endless to-do lists, that we struggle to listen to those who are around us. Most of the time we don't even realize we are being poor listeners, but during a conversation we are most likely thinking about how to jump in and start telling our own story, offer advice, or make a judgement. We no longer listen to understand, but instead we listen to reply.
Hearing Vs. Listening:
Research shows that only 10% of us are effective listeners! That means 90% of us hear people but don't connect with them. Hearing is a physiological act; listening involves our ability to unpack the meaning of words, and the silences in between.
We can't listen if we don't get rid of distractions. Only once we release the distractions can we unpack the meaning of words.
Below I listed 5 tips on how to release what’s getting in the way of you becoming a powerful and effective listener.
1. Start From A Place of Acceptance
Avoid patterns of judgement. Focusing less on your interpretation of a person and more on what the person is saying will help you become a better listener. Before entering a conversation ask yourself the question: Can I stay fully present and listen deeply?
2. Airplane Mode
If you notice your phone is becoming a distraction, put it on airplane mode! You shouldn't be thinking about notifications and phone calls while in a conversation. Some people suggest leaving your phone in the car or in another room, but truth is, you're still thinking about calls and texts even when it's out of sight. If you're trying to be a good listener on the phone, set the phone down and use bluetooth headphones or speaker mode. If you're scrolling Facebook and trying to have a conversation at the same time, you're taking away from that person by not actively listening.
3. Be Present
Have you ever had a conversation with someone whose mind was somewhere else? That no matter what you'd say to them they would always respond with the same answer, or just smile at you because they WEREN'T LISTENING! Yeah, don't be that person. When we can be present we can engage, learn, and grow.
4. Ask Open-Ended Questions
When it feels appropriate to engage in a response, ask questions that are open-ended, such as: What was that like? and How did that feel? It will make for a better dialogue and give you the chance to continue gaining information.
5. Be Open to Silence
In yoga we learn about mantras - that saying a mantra is just as important as the silence that comes after. Silence is important when listening too. Most of us are uncomfortable with pauses and what we may consider awkward silences. But in those pauses we can reflect on the meaning of what a person has just said. Try to keep your mind from wandering during those moments of silence; there may be significance behind the pause itself.
Just like everything in life, becoming an active and effective listener will take practice, consistency, and intention. As a coach and future yoga teacher, I want to become a better listener so I can create more positive relationships in my life. I also want to become a better listener so I can absorb more information and learn from others. Becoming a good listener will allow me to keep doing what I love in an uplifting way, and that's why I actively desire to become the most effective listener I can be...even if I have to practice each and everyday.