Learning to Become an Active Listener
While listening is a voluntary act, it is not an easy voluntary act. It takes time and effort and much practice to become an active listener.
First, you must work to overcome the biggest barrier to listening — the urge to talk too much. It is a physical impossibility to listen and talk at the same time. Active listening requires that you learn the art of silence.
When practicing this skill, you can begin by forcing yourself to be silent in places where you might normally be a very talkative person, such as parties, gatherings of friends, lunch with colleagues, or on a date. You might also work on this skill by learning the art of asking questions and waiting for answers. Let the other person talk as long as he or she wishes. Your job is to listen.
Another major obstacle to listening is prejudging the situation even before the other person or persons begin to speak. Prejudging means that you have already made up your mind about the outcome before you give the person or the information a chance.
It may be that you do not like the information or idea being presented and you judge this unfairly, or it may be that you do not like the person communicating the message and you automatically judge the information based on who is giving it. Remember, active listening requires that you listen to the message and not judge the messenger until all of the cards are on the table.
When working on your skills to become a more active listener, consider the following tips:
Work hard to give your complete attention to the person communicating.
Avoid jumping to conclusions.
Listen for how something is said.
Listen for what is not said.
Do not overreact; give the communicator a chance.
Look for nonverbal signs in the message.
Leave your emotions and prejudices behind.
Give the communicator eye contact.
By practicing these simple techniques, you will be amazed at how quickly your listening skills begin to improve. You'll also begin to see a major difference in how you feel about yourself and your communication abilities.