And as you might know, active listening isn't just about hearing the words being spoken, but also about fully engaging with and understanding the speaker's message.
So to help you do all of that, here are five simple exercises you can practice in your everyday life to take your active listening skills to the next level.
The need to fill a silence with words can be an active listener’s worst enemy, so don’t be afraid to use pauses in the conversation.
You might not always notice, but sometimes people need a little more time to figure out how to verbalize their thoughts, and sometimes they might hesitate for other reasons.
Either way, taking a couple of beats before answering someone will encourage them to continue talking and give you more information.
Engage someone you know in a conversation about them or an interest you two share. Then, make a conscious effort to pause for a second or two before responding to the things they say.
It might feel a little awkward at first, but once you find a good rhythm you'll demonstrate your commitment to active listening and give them a little extra time to think of it if they have more to say.
Paraphrasing in active listening is all about summarizing the speaker's message in your own words to ensure that you've understood them correctly.
This won't just show the person you’re talking to that you're paying attention, but also that you’re actively engaged and interested in truly understanding their thoughts or points of view.
Ask a friend or family member to tell you about a topic you know they have an interest in or opinions about.
Practice paraphrasing back to them what you heard them say after each time they finish making a point, and ask them to confirm that you understood them correctly. If you didn't, ask them to correct the things you were wrong about.
Empathy is a crucial component of active listening.
Without empathy, you might hear someone's words but never fully understand their experiences or points of view. So seek to understand the emotions and feelings behind the speaker’s message by putting yourself in their shoes.
Practice setting aside your own opinions and judgments while you listen, so that you can truly connect with their perspective, regardless of your own.
Have a conversation with someone who holds a different viewpoint or belief about a topic than you.
Instead of trying to convince them of your thoughts, simply focus on fully understanding their emotions and the reasoning behind their beliefs.
When you think you do, use paraphrasing to confirm that you're right.
Active listening is not just about the ears and mind; it involves the entire body.
Maintain an open and attentive posture, hold eye contact, and nod occasionally to show your engagement.
Your nonverbal cues play a significant role in making the speaker feel heard and respected.
Practice an open and engaged body language in your daily conversations.
Watch the speaker while they speak, keep your shoulders back and your body open, and use movements of your head and/or hands to show them that you’re paying attention.
In today's digital age, distractions are everywhere.
To be a skilled active listener you have to be able to be fully present in important conversations. So put away your phone, turn off the tv, and – when possible - find a quiet environment to talk in.
During your upcoming conversations, make a conscious effort to avoid doing things like checking your phone or looking around at other things or people. Focus solely on the speaker and their message.
And if you struggle with this, you can also try to film yourself during conversations – or ask for real-time feedback from those who know and love you – to discover any blind spots you might have.
Active listening is an invaluable skill that can transform the way we connect with others and build stronger relationships.
By practicing these five exercises in your daily conversations until they become habits - you will improve your active listening skills, and likely also deepen your personal and professional relationships.
Remember, mastering the art of active listening takes time and practice, but the rewards it brings are truly worth the effort.
Hi, I'm TJ Guttormsen.
Since 2009 I’ve coached clients ranging from Olympic gold medalists and billionaires, to people who simply want more out life.
I’ve done over 100 national media appearances, published books, and created online courses that have earned several “Highest Rated” titles from their 11 000+ members.
Today I coach clients from all over the world, and teach seminars for business and events from my home in Las Vegas.
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