How to practice listening well?
Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. It is made up of three components:
The Process of listening is organized into three steps not because I say so but, more so due to the biological process which regulates listening.
The proof of good listening is an appropriate response. - Judi Brownell
You have to conquer two big obstacles if you plan to get really good at listening.
1. Your ability to relax. Listening is an active process where you need to let go of your control and give all your attention to the person talking. If you are too stressed, you cannot give your 100% attention.
2. Your ability to shut down your inner dialogue and focus on the person who is talking. All too often in a conversation we tend to get ahead of the topic and spend a lot of mental energy in getting an answer together (or in some cases a rebuttal) rather than listen to what is being said. When you focus on your inner self, you are missing out on the action happening outside of you.
To take of these two problems, I suggest you listen to a great Hypnosis tape called Develop great listening skills.
The Hypnosis program helps you do two things. It helps you relax and then it helps you stop the inner chatter and pay attention to the speaker. It helps you tune yourself into the conversation in a way that will help you fully be "In" the situation.
Some of you may not be familiar or comfortable with the word hypnosis and that is ok. There are some other exercises that you can try to be in the present. I personally recommend this tape because it is an easier way to help you focus and its proven to work over many many years now.
Difference between Listening and Hearing
Most of us would not differentiate between hearing and listening. This is mostly due to the conditioning that all of us go through in the school which says
Ear is for Hearing
There is a big difference. You can hear the noise, but you have to listen to your girlfriend.
The physical process behind Hearing involves capturing the sound waves through ears and sending this data to the brain. Or simply put, hearing just means listening enough to catch what the speaker is saying.
Interpreting: Once this data reaches your brain, based on past experiences and learning, the brain will interpret / understand the data and classifies it as noise, word, music…Etc.
Giving a contextual meaning: Depending on the context/situation, the data is given a specific meaning. With advent of Mobile Cell Phones, it has become all the more important to pay full attention while listening to others.
You hear it. The brain classifies it as words. Based on the context it can have three different meanings.
1. You are looking at you watch and waiting for your car:
2. You are in a food joint and awaiting your order:
3. You are practicing for a Rock show and you are speaking to your drummer:
See how the meaning is determined contextually?
These three components are the internal process required for Active listening. Now, how about the external processes which can help you a little more?
Steps to improve your Active Listening Skills
2. Observe the tonality shifts, rate of speech and such auditory changes. Is it changing too fast or abnormally? Most of the People may stress on the Keywords or use a different tonality to emphasize on a particular statement.
3. Use questions to clarify. Using the keywords and rephrasing can help you understand easily. Use closed questions with moderation.
4. Use receptive language to show that you are listening, if you are too immersed in yourself while listening, others would feel you are not interested.
5. Shift places if you are allowed to do so. This will give you different perspectives on the topic being discussed.
6. Avoid going to the advice mode when someone is explaining a problem. That will nurture your ego but others will feel hurt and unheard. This is especially important in relationships. Men : Woman just want you to listen to them and may not need your help to solve a problem, so focus on just listening. Women: We men actually do not want to listen to very detail, summary will do just fine.
7. Pick out keywords and phrases and use them to maintain your focus incase you drift off once in a while.
The most important tip I can give you about active listening is to Be Flexible and that will take you a long way.
Practice Active listening by.....
1. Being Externally Focused:
2. Avoid Judgment:
Choose to listen, rather than judge
3. Demonstrate Interest:
Ask Questions to clarify
This list is by no means an exhaustive one. It is a simple guideline to ensure you can understand and practice active listening. When you listen to someone with undivided attention and demonstrate interest, they will feel great about themselves and will be grateful to you.
Another advantage of active listening is that it keeps you in the present so you do not have to worry about getting a panic attack in case you have to speak about a connected issue