How To Develop Active Listening Skills: Techniques + Exercises + Practice

395

In today’s article you’re going to learn everything you need to know about how to develop active listening skills.

If you want to improve the quality of your verbal communication with others, mastering the methods and ways of active listening can certainly help you. Active listening is the ability to fully control the discussion and let your interlocutors know that you are listening and that you understand what they say to you, that it is important to you. If you listen to and are interested in what your other person has to say, you are likely to have a good relationship with them.

How To Develop Active Listening Skills

What does active listening give?

By actively listening, you show that you really do listen, hear and understand. You build an interest that shows that what someone says is important. You give the opportunity to build distance to the statements of others. By actively listening, you make sure that you have understood the intentions and statements of your interlocutor. In a conversation with an excited person you slow down the momentum of emotions. You can organize your speech and summarize the most important things. You encourage to open up even more and reveal all your needs and doubts.

Listening levels

There are different approaches to classifying listening levels. One of these is the approach Schultz von Thun, according to which each of us has four ears:

  • Factual Ear – draws attention to facts and information.
  • Self-revealing ear – draws attention to the feelings, emotions that the other person tells us. This ear is sensitive for “What are you telling me about yourself?
  • Relationship ear – it is sensitive to mutual relations; it draws attention to what the sender thinks about the relation with the recipient.
  • Appeal Ear – pays attention to what the other person wants from us; paying attention to the appeal, i.e. what you want from me.

The statement we hear can be interpreted in different ways, depending on which “ear” we have processed the message of our interlocutor.

Another approach is to divide it into the following four levels of listening:

  • Cosmetic listening – theoretically we listen to our interlocutor, but in reality we are thinking somewhere else. It is mainly the recording of sound waves.
  • Conversational listening – we engage in conversation, listen, talk and think. At this level we focus on the speaker and his or her words, but also on what we say ourselves. This is a normal, everyday level of listening in contact with other people.
  • Active listening – we focus on what the other person says, we pay special attention to it. We devote more effort to listening than to speaking. Approximately 60% of the time we listen, 40% of the time we talk. We try to stay focused on the words of the person we talk to and actively understand what he or she is saying and what he or she is trying to tell us.
  • Deep Listening – We focus less on ourselves than on the interlocutor. The listener’s consciousness is completely focused on the interlocutor. The listener has almost no self-confidence or self-awareness.

SEE ALSO: How To Avoid Awkward Silence On a Date: Here Are 10 Helpful Ways

Principles of effective communication

There are several principles that facilitate effective communication:

  • Speak on your own behalf about what is happening here and now.
  • Talk to someone, not about someone.
  • Be aware of your own prejudices and stereotypes so that they have as little influence as possible on communication.
  • Avoid manipulation, do not attribute your own intentions to others (“I think you know that it would be good to…………”).
  • Ask for what you want, don’t make others guess what it is all about. Don’t play games with riddles.
  • Refuse to do something you don’t want to do.
  • Communicate the message in its entirety. Do not “sip” information.
  • Do not generalize, speak precisely.
  • Be aware of your own intentions, why you say what you say.
  • Be aware of your own body and feelings.
  • Ask- how?, -what?, avoid -why?

Basic communication techniques

Active listening is nothing more than letting the other person know that we are genuinely interested in what he or she says to us. The basic communication techniques are:

Communicating intentions

We directly call our intentions e.g:

  • I want us to communicate…
  • This is not an easy situation for me…
  • I am responsible for your case and therefore…
  • I’m asking because I want to understand the situation so I can decide what to do next…

Paraphrasing questions

I would like to be sure that I have understood you well, so I will ask you a few questions. Allow me…

Questions

We ask questions about specifics and ask about all inaccuracies, e.g:

  • When exactly did you receive the documents?
  • What exactly is unclear to you?
  • What else raises your doubts?

Paraphrase

We put into other words what someone said, checking if we understood correctly, e.g.: “I am not sure if we have understood what you said:

  • If I have understood you correctly….
  • So you’re saying that…
  • So you think…
  • As I understand it, what you’re saying is…

Expression of interest

Minimal verbal reactions: Um, I understand…

Reflecting the feelings and content of the statement

We tell someone what we think his or her feelings are, e.g:

  • You seem to be upset.
  • I hear that you are upset.
  • It seems that you are irritated.
  • I hear that you have been greatly annoyed by this situation.

Clarification

Specifying, guiding the interlocutor to the main topics of the conversation, making summaries, e.g:

  • Let’s go back to the main topic of the conversation….
  • Let’s get back to where we left off…
  • So far, we’ve been saying that…

Focusing on the most important

Please focus on the most important issue, e.g:

  • I hear that all this is very important to you, but is there any particular thing we can do about it?
  • Which of these things is most important to you?

SEE ALSO: How To Argue Effectively And Productively: The 31 Rules of Argument

Personality types and verbal communication

In order to make communication more effective, we should remember about all factors facilitating communication, try to eliminate barriers and take into account the specific personality of the interlocutor. People differ from each other and it is worth remembering about it when communicating with others. People more easily assimilate information if it is uttered in “their style” of communication, i.e. if the right tone of voice, timbre, pace of speaking, rhythm, similar expressions are maintained.

It is worth adjusting your speech depending on the “type of personality” you are talking to. In simple terms, one can assume that there are four basic types of personality: friendly, dominant, analytical, expressive. How to talk to each of these types?

Friendly

  • Maintain a friendly attitude
  • Be kind and sincere
  • Try to support him emotionally.
  • Show me you’re interested in him.
  • Give him time to define his goals.
  • In case of disagreement, do not refer to facts and logic, but to personal feelings and emotional spheres.
  • Show that you listen carefully and are open to discussion
  • You’d rather avoid a warrant.

Dominant

  • Try to support his goals.
  • Ask questions that will get him on the right track
  • Be specific – don’t “beat about the bush.”
  • Be prepared and effective – stick to the set time frame
  • Give solutions, alternatives
  • Refer to facts, not feelings.
  • Rather keep a formal contact
  • Don’t tell him what to do or how to do it.
  • Speak the language of benefit
  • I don’t think you should use the nicknames
  • Remember to stay on the subject.

Analytical

  • Be systematic and accurate
  • Be well prepared for the conversation
  • Present advantages and disadvantages and prepare alternative solutions
  • I don’t think you should rush to make a decision.
  • Provide solid evidence and references
  • Be provided with graphs, numbers and analyses
  • Keep your distance with formal contact
  • Use rather official phrases
  • Speak clearly and objectively.

Expressive

  • Let him give you his views.
  • Don’t rush a discussion at the beginning of a conversation
  • Make sure that the details are correct
  • Be cool.
  • Summary in writing of all findings
  • Keep up the pace of conversation
  • You can use the diminutive if the situation allows you to do so
  • Refer to interpersonal relationships
  • Let me talk to you.
  • You can appeal to your feelings
  • Try to control the conversation so that you don’t lose the main topic.

Keep in mind that people are not just divided into these four types. However, it is worth adapting your message to the temperament and personality of your audience. Of course, the examples of how to communicate with different types of people are only guidelines worth remembering, we should not use them unreflectively, trying to force our way of communication.

Summing up, the ability to listen actively is based on the acceptance of our interlocutor, tolerance for their feelings and emotions, respect for the person. The ability to listen actively is a very important element in effective communication and building relationships. It allows to create a sense of mutual trust. Thanks to active listening we not only obtain information about the needs and preferences of our interlocutors, but we also establish and maintain stronger ties with other people. By following the presented rules of communication you can improve your relations and better convince to your ideas.

Thank you for reading this article about how to develop active listening skills and I really hope that you take action my advice.

I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.