Active listening isn’t just about being a better conversationalist – it can also have significant benefits for your mental health, work life, and relationships. We all know the feeling of being trapped in a conversation where it feels like the other person is just waiting for their turn to speak. Mindful listening is a way to avoid these one-sided conversations and engage with the person you’re speaking with. Here we’ll explore some of the top benefits of being an effective listener and how you can start incorporating it into your everyday life.
What is active listening?
Active listening is seen as a communication technique that involves actively making an effort to comprehend someone’s words rather than passively listening to them. It requires the listener to focus on what is being said and to communicate understanding back to the speaker. It helps build rapport, trust, and relationships. Demonstrating active listening means, in addition to listening closely to a speaker, you consciously process what they are saying and retain the information for later. Which can ultimately help increase comprehension, reduce misunderstandings, and encourage collaboration at work or in school.
What does active listening look like?
Being an active listener is an important communication skill to practice in any situation. It involves more than just being quiet and attentive. Active listening means engaging with the speaker – making eye contact, nodding in agreement, and verbally showing interest and understanding by asking questions or paraphrasing what they’ve said. According to Goodtherapy.org, a significant part of communication is attributed to nonverbal elements such as posture and eye contact. Nonverbal communication plays a prominent role in our lives by helping establish engaging and meaningful interactions.
By consciously listening, you demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the conversation. This could be done with a friend who has something exciting to share or when your boss gives directions for a work project and you show your understanding by nodding or smiling. In class, it can mean paying attention to a teacher’s non-verbal cues to ensure that you understand the message. For instance, consciously observing a teacher’s hand gestures can help you better understand the information they are trying to convey.
How can active listening help you?
Waterford.org explains how “over 60% of all misunderstandings come from poor listening.” By being a mindful listener, you are demonstrating respect for the other individual and what they are saying, increasing their willingness to open up and trust you. Additionally, coursera.org states that the average listener only remembers “25% of a lecture or talk two months later.” Actively listening during a talk or lecture can help you retain the information someone is sharing with you. Furthermore, when practiced regularly, active listening leads to better communication within relationships, stronger learning retention, and improved work performance in the workplace.
Mindful listening is a powerful skill that can have immense benefits in your work life, school life, and relationships. In your work life, actively listening can help you better understand your assignments and expectations so that you make informed decisions with confidence. In school, actively comprehending others helps build trust and opens the door to collaboration, which actually increases understanding of the content taught. In fact, Researchgate.net describes how “96% of students found that working collaboratively as a group assisted them in enhancing their learning.” This shows how collaborative learning can help students improve academically by practicing necessary communication techniques like active listening.
Effective listening skills will help you gain insights so that together you can create solutions or find a resolution to any challenges. When it comes to relationships with friends and loved ones, perceptive listening allows each person the time and space they need to be truly heard and understood, promoting connection and understanding on a deeper level. Not only does active listening bring clarity to communication but it also enriches relationships and creates a sense of security for all involved.
Becoming a better active listener
Becoming a good listener can be challenging, but the benefits are worth it. Start by simply paying attention to what the other person is saying while trying not to judge them or think too far ahead. When you enter a conversation with an already established point of view or closed mindset, judgment can keep you from fully comprehending what someone is trying to articulate. Being present in the moment also helps you better understand what they’re saying and ask relevant questions. Oftentimes our own thoughts can get in the way of us actively listening to what someone else is saying. For example, a good way to make sure you’re staying present in a conversation is by clearing your mind and focusing solely on the speaker.
Additionally, it’s essential not to forget that listening requires patience, so be sure to give the speaker enough time to express themselves fully! Making small comments like “hmm” or “I hear you” will go a long way in letting them know you are patiently listening. And don’t be afraid to show that you’re engaged with your body language; nodding your head, making eye contact, and smiling. This encourages them to continue speaking.
Practicing active listening in your everyday life
Listening intently to conversations and being mindful of verbal and nonverbal cues has tremendous benefits. As stated by HBR.org, listening resembles a muscle. It requires training, persistence, effort, and most importantly, the intention to become a good listener. Practicing effective listening can be done in everyday conversation, like talking with a friend or having dinner with your family. Start by maintaining eye contact, giving thoughtful responses, and reflecting on understanding to show that you have taken the time to consider what was said. Ask open-ended questions to go deeper into a conversation topic and seek out clarity on something said. These questions often begin with What, Why, When, and How, and help further the conversation by eliciting more than a two-word response. Furthermore, asking open-ended questions can give the speaker a chance to clarify, and prevent you from making incorrect assumptions.
There are several exercises you can use to practice being a mindful listener, such as taking part in role-play exercises. For example, goodlisteningskills.org suggests role-playing scenarios where two people take on different roles and practice communicating with one another while actively listening to the other’s point of view. This permits each of you to hone your skills in a low-risk situation. Another exercise involves summarizing what has been said by the speaker at specific intervals throughout a conversation. This allows you to actively engage with the conversation and ensure that all pertinent points are heard and understood. It can also help to practice active listening when going out in public, such as while networking or engaging in small talk with strangers. This kind of communication helps strengthen relationships, fosters deeper connections, and allows people to learn something new through every interaction.
Active listening is a skill that you can learn and practice. By becoming a strong listener, you can see the benefits in your personal life, work life, and relationships. When you are a mindful listener, you show that you care about others and want to understand them better. You also allow yourself to learn new things and gain different perspectives.
If you want to become a better active listener, there are many ways that you can practice this skill in your daily life. Be patient, be present, pay attention, and withhold judgment to truly listen to someone with the intention of understanding them. And if you feel like you might need a little extra help, we’ve got you covered! At WorldWise Tutoring, we understand the difficulties that can accompany learning, especially when it comes to soft skills like active listening. This is why our tutors are professionals who can quickly assess difficulties and are dedicated to getting their students on track to success. Hire a tutor today!
Written by Miguel Correa-West