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Are You An Active Listener? Find Out How To Become It In 8 Steps!

Written by: Rodolfo Parlati, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Active listening is the art of listening to meaning. To effectively grasp it from the words of another person, you have to listen carefully. Active listening is of fundamental importance because it is the basis of effective communication. In some cases, active non-listening can also have some disastrous consequences. Listening actively requires the listener to understand, interpret and evaluate what is being said. Without this, communication is nothing more than a facade and it is altogether inadequate in any environment, especially at work. Because companies depend on human interaction to achieve one's goals, the quality of that interaction must be of the highest level. In this case, interaction means communication.

There are many reasons why people fail to hear properly. They can be distracted by an activity they are doing while they are listening, or by other thoughts, they have in their head that they consider more important, or they might think about what they will say next, which is a common defect in communication between the parties whose opinions tend to diverge. Active listening focuses attention on the speaker. It involves the listener who submits his own needs for a while out of respect for those of his interlocutor. It requires concentration and a genuine willingness to listen to what is being said. Where there is no active listening, there is little communication and where there is little communication, opportunities are lost and problems are created or perpetuated. Active listening encourages people to open up, reduces the possibility of misunderstanding, helps resolve issues and conflicts, and builds trust.

Some studies reveal that people only correctly listen to 25% to 50% of what they are told. In a 10 minute conversation, you might only get 2-5 minutes of useful information. While this may be enough to grasp the general sense of the conversation, there is still 50% to 75% of information that has escaped. The possibility of missing important details is therefore significant.

Human beings are social creatures. Not only is communication inevitable, but it is desirable. It allows you to express your emotions, your hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows, and share them with other people you think are interested, or who may be able to help you make sense of them. But when you speak, there has to be someone listening for this to make sense. Active listening shows the speaker that what he has to say is important. It creates a sense of trust and, for a listener, is a sounding board that allows the speaker to develop thoughts that up until then may have been difficult to express.

8 Steps To Improve Your Active Listening

Here are some simple and effective exercises, useful for improving your active listening and, consequently, your relationships. In carrying out them, it is essential to remain focused during the execution of the same, to be able to internalize them and perceive, over time and application, the relevance of your progress.

1. Activate your curiosity.

Be genuinely interested in your interlocutor. Imagine his story is like a book you are reading: page after page, you are discovering what will happen in the next chapters.

2. Ask questions to your interlocutor.

At the end of a speech or just after a few minutes of listening, asking questions to the interlocutor can be useful to obtain clarifications, thus avoiding to overlook the less clear-cut things and check, just like in a self-assessment test, if you are what your interlocutor wanted to say and what emotions he felt during the speech is listened to and fully understood.

3. Don't rush to have your say.

Now it's your turn to listen. You will speak later. If you immediately start thinking about what to say next, you will lose sight of your interlocutor's emotions.

4. Make a summary of what you have heard.

It is an exercise that can be done with an interlocutor but, for example, also simply following a television program, recording it, and reviewing it, after having summarized in writing what has been heard. It is a particularly useful exercise to improve listening, even if it requires objectivity and a critical sense to allow you to admit if you have truly centered the meaning of the speech or if you need to listen again, making an effort to pay more attention to the person who he's talking.

5. Ask your interlocutor to ask questions.

It is likely that the interlocutor, during his speech, wants you to grasp some particular passages, details that you might miss. To improve your listening, in addition to being the ones to ask questions to your interlocutor, you can ensure that he does the same with you so that you can understand how much you have fully learned those parts of the speech that the interlocutor considers of particular relevance.

6. Learn to observe, not just listen.

Listening effectively does not mean relying only on hearing and on one's ability to use it voluntarily and carefully. There is a non-verbal language, made up of gestures, body movements, facial expressions, and physical reactions that are more truthful than the words themselves and capable of transmitting important messages, especially from an emotional point of view. For this reason, it is essential to learn to fully exploit both hearing and sight while listening, as this also allows you to grasp aspects such as consistency and discrepancies in the communication of the interlocutor in question.

7. Set aside time for silence.

Unless you live or work in a particularly quiet or isolated place, you are often surrounded by city noises. Occasionally, moving away from the din and finding silence can help you pay more attention to the sounds that surround you, to catch and recognize them.

8. Learn to distinguish between multiple sounds.

Practicing to recognize different sounds is a valid exercise for learning how to manage attention and focus on something specific, isolating it, and moving away from everything else.

In conclusion:

Active listening can be practiced and developed. Every day, try for a few minutes to practice these steps while having a conversation with whoever you want. After a few attempts, you will realize the extraordinary power that active listening can have on your relational life: your communication skills will improve dramatically, both in the workplace and personally.

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Rodolfo Parlati, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Rodolfo Parlati is a Professional Life & Executive Coach. Always inspired by the desire to impact others positively, his mission is to help people and professionals be happy and successful by finding out their inner potential and exploring the right path to follow to "give shape" to their goals. Passionate about building connections, the key elements of his coaching strategy are creating meaningful actions to attain the clients' goals, knowing what is holding them back, and supporting them in finding higher awareness. His natural curiosity has always driven him to be an eager lifelong learner, explore new fields, and look for the answers to any question.



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