by Tristan Loo
Active listening is the primary skill of effective communication. It involves encouraging positive conversation, acknowledging the other person’s point of view, repeating back what they said in your own words and showing empathy. The goal of active listening is to build trust, collect pertinent information, diffuse any anger and create peace and harmony.
- Listening & understanding. You are listening to the words spoken to you and reading your counterpart’s nonverbal communication to get a good picture of what they are thinking. Listening is not just hearing, but also internalizing and understanding what is being spoken to you. For example, you can be listening to a Brazilian person speaking Portuguese, but if you do not understand Portuguese yourself, then you are not understanding what is being said. However, if the Brazilian person is also pointing to his wrist, saying “tempo?” while looking over to your watch, then you can probably assume that he is asking for the time. Listening requires all your senses to observe the person and take in as much information from them to understand what they are saying.
- Empathizing. Empathy is the process of understanding an issue from the perspective of your counterpart. Metaphorically it can be likened to the saying, “walking around in another man’s shoes” because you are trying to see things through the filter of their life and experiences rather than your own. This is important to gaining rapport and building trust with that person.
- Asking & encouraging. By asking questions, you will be able to direct their focus onto key issues and also increase your charisma with them by seeking their opinions. Encouraging means you are letting the other person know that you are interested in what they have to say. Feedback is important to the other person because they have a need to know that their “faxes” are being received, metaphorically speaking. This is the process of getting the person to elaborate more on an idea so that you can paint a fuller picture of his frame of mind.
- Paraphrasing / Summarizing. Paraphrasing is the skill of repeating back the other person’s meaning with your own words. This is important in the active listening process because it prevents miscommunication and it also lets the other person know that you are understanding what they are telling you and that you are trying to empathize with them.
This article was first published at the website of Synergy Institute.