Listening is quite different from hearing. When hearing another person, we know what they are saying. With listening we not only really try and understand what the other person is saying, but perhaps why – we may even try to put ourselves in the other person’s place (empathy).
Listening is a skill that takes some of us many years to develop. The following are the ground-rules for effective listening. Which of the following techniques do you use well and regularly?
- I nod my head regularly when the other person is speaking to indicate that I am listening.
- I use listening noises such as “mm”, “uh hu” or short words/phrases such as “I see”, “OK” frequently.
- I sometimes repeat the exact words the other person says to indicate that I am listening.
- I rephrase or paraphrase what the other person has said frequently to show that I have heard what was said.
- I summarise in my own words what the other person has actually said to indicate that I have understood.
- I summarise in my own words the feelings that the other person has expressed.
- I have a “summary phrase” (e.g. “Let me see if I understand”) that I use regularly to keep me on track during a conversation.
The real skill here is doing these things whilst keeping the conversation feeling natural. Of course, this can only come with practice. So it’s worth practicing these techniques in more relaxed environments before using them in important conversations.