The Power of Active Listening
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The Power of Active Listening



The term "active listening" (also referred to as reflective listening) was introduced in 1957 by Carl Rogers and Richard Farson. Active Listening is when someone is fully engaged when someone else is speaking. You are not just hearing their voice or waiting until they stop talking to talk about yourself or say something irrelevant to what the other person is saying, but paying attention to and understanding their thoughts and feelings, and thoughtfully responding to them. Learning active listening techniques can help you become a better communicator. Let's discuss how these techniques can help get the most out of conversations and trainings.


What does active listening really mean?

Active listening begins with the intent to be conscious and receptive to the speaker, knowing the purpose of the conversation or training, to truly understand and empathize with them. We can show we are paying attention with body language, eye contact, not checking our phone and, in a training situation, taking notes. This not only helps us focus more on the conversation or training topic, but it shows the speaker that we care about the information they are sharing or teaching. According to researcher Albert Mehrabian, at least 55% of communication is from body language alone! This communication can come across when we are saying nothing at all. Be mindful of your body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures.

Responding appropriately to the topic shows we heard and understood the speaker. Asking open-ended questions can encourage the speaker to elaborate on an important or interesting idea. Repeating words and phrases helps to show that we've understood the speaker and can make them feel validated in their feelings. Giving encouraging verbal cues like "mm-hmm", "I see" and "I understand", along with non-verbal cues like nodding, shows we understand what's being shared. Providing feedback and advice after a training shows we took in the information being shared and can help the trainer improve and express what we found helpful. Inquiring to clarify certain points of confusion or vague areas helps us to learn more from the speaker. All of this demonstrates active listening and helps us to get the most out of a conversation or training.

My mom Terri and I were chatting about this, and in her work as a trainer for Cornerstone Learning, she says that taking feedback from trainees helps her to see that what she has said has impacted the learners. It also helps her to notice and observe how the learners were listening to each other throughout the session. She can see what resonated with people, what consistent themes are emerging, and make decisions about what she will keep and what she will change for future sessions. Active listening has helped her learn about the challenges and benefits from a myriad of employees and managers who work in several different industries.


What are the benefits?

The benefits of active listening are endless. We learn patience by allowing the other person time to speak without interruptions. It helps build trust and strengthens relationships, especially when it comes to resolving conflict. By actively interacting with the person speaking, you show them you respect their opinion and are willing to work together to find a solution. In addition, by truly listening to what they're saying, you may be able to find a compromise that satisfies both parties, which in turn strengthens our relationships.

Putting it all together...

We can learn a lot about ourselves and others when we actively listen. Intentionally incorporating it into our daily lives, not just in the workplace but also in our personal relationships, helps us to get the most out of conversations, practice and gain important life skills, and be a better person. Because we all know how it feels when someone isn't really listening to us. Actively listening, and encouraging others to do the same is beneficial for everyone in the long run.

Photo by Oleksandr P: