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Are You An Active Listener?

Part 10 of 14 from Communication Essentials

(continued from last week…)

Practice Listening

Hint number nine is practice listening. Practice accurate listening. Practice active listening. Along with speaking more accurately, we have to practice being a good listener.

You may say, “I am a good listener. I listen to what they say. I don’t interrupt them. I’m there and paying attention.” But are you accurately clarifying what you’re hearing? You need to.

We need to be aware of what the person is truly saying. If your partner says, “My first impression of you was that you were immature,” listen to what they say. Do not jump to conclusions and assume that they think you are immature. They said “My first impression was X.” it may have changed! Don’t get defensive because that impression may be different now. Clarify and avoid issues.

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You need to make sure you’re listening correctly, and if you have questions you need to ask them to explain. You paraphrase back, “So you think I’m immature?” They can say, “Well I thought you were when we first met. I’ve now learned that you’re not.” You paraphrase it. You say it back. You try and get them to repeat back to you a clarifying statement. You want to make certain you’re getting the right information.

Most of the time the communication breakdowns we have in our relationships are because we make assumptions about what the other person meant and didn’t take time to clarify if that really was what they did mean. Sometimes when people hear their own words spoken back to them, it helps them slow down and think about it for a moment. It gives them a space to realize what they said and what you heard may not have been the same thing. Or what they meant and what came out were different.

If your partner seems clear about what they meant to say and you rephrase it back, then they can say “Yes, that is what I meant.” On the other hand, if you paraphrase it back, “So you meant X, Y and Z,” they can say, “No, that isn’t what I meant. What I meant was X, Y and Q.” When you paraphrase it back, when you give them the opportunity to clarify, it makes a major difference in the way that you relate to each other and the way you communicate. This way you both know you’re clear on what’s being communicated.

All too often a person simply wants to know they’ve been heard. If you are an active listener and you’re partnering with them and they can tell you’re paying attention and they can hear you letting them know you’re getting the message they actually intended, they will feel better about you and about that relationship at that moment in time. Be an active listener. It strengthens your relationship.

(to be continued…)

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