Active listening – Features, Purpose and Tips

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a method for giving attention to what’s being said. It means being interested enough in another person’s speech to listen attentively without being distracted by concerns such as facts or style. Active listening is the essence of what social listening is all about. It is how people learn; grow; make friends and improve their relationships.

It involves interpreting what is said, analyzing the ideas as you hear them, receiving simultaneous Feedback on how you sound, and setting aside your automatic responses to make room for new perspectives and information. When practiced actively, you learn not to take things at face value but instead examine them critically. Thus, active listening is critical for both effective communication and good habits of mind.

Features of Active Listening

Active listening is a type of communication that requires more than just hearing someone speak. It involves fully concentrating on the speaker’s words, hearing all intonations of the voice, and seeing all non-verbal signs of communication.

Following are the features of Active Listening

  • Patient and Neutral
  • Participating in the conversation by asking questions
  • Clarifying
  • Giving Feedback to show the signs of listening

The Purpose of Active Listening

Learning how to listen is becoming increasingly crucial in a world where rapid communication is the norm. Today, with the rise of digital communications and social media, it’s essential that we learn how to communicate effectively. The key to communication lies in active listening, the conscious decision to listen actively and carefully. Active listeners make every effort to hear what people say by avoiding distractions and filtering out extraneous sounds. Active listening serves the purpose of earning the trust of others.

Active listening is a way to truly understand what someone else has to say without providing your opinion or advice. This lets the other person feel understood and can help them solve their problems.

Active listening means that you do not indulge in the following behaviors, which are usually self-defeating:

  • Constantly reflecting on things in your head can prevent you from fully taking in what others are saying.
  • Refusing to show respect for the speaker is a sign of disrespect.
  • Hearing without understanding or hearing something other than what was intended
  • If you are constantly interrupting people, it will be really hard for them to get their ideas across.
  • Avoiding Eye Contact
  • Pretending to listen to someone while looking at your phone or just nodding along is not a good way to show you care.
  • Asking about irrelevant details.

Benefits of Active Listening

  • Active listening is a powerful technique for overcoming your weaknesses in connecting with others.
  • It makes you more intelligent and creative
  • Leaders who use active listening improve their team’s credibility at work
  • It creates a supportive atmosphere in the workplace and enhances communication between teammates
  • It can be instrumental in solving complex problems
  • It is the best way to improve a relationship
  • It can raise your mood
  • It can lead to more empathy and compassion, and
  • It can improve your ability to learn from others.

Tips for Practicing Active Listening

  • Look at the person speaking to you, and lean toward them a little. Nod occasionally to show that you’re paying attention. When someone is speaking to you, don’t fold your arms across your chest—this can signal that you’re not listening
  • Summarize what has been said, rather than giving your advice or adding to the discussion.
  • Allowing the other person to finish helps you make sure that you understand them correctly and not misunderstand what is said.
  • In addition to listening, watch the expressions on the speaker’s face and listen to how they say it.
  • Pull your mind away from thinking about yourself and concentrate solely on what the speaker is saying.
  • To show interest, ask questions about the speaker’s words. You can also use open-ended questions to encourage speakers to continue talking.
  • Don’t suddenly change the subject; that would seem like you didn’t listen to the other person.
  • When you listen with an open, neutral, and nonjudgmental attitude, it will help promote an environment of constructive communication where the speaker feels safe to express their viewpoint.
  • Have patience and let the other person finish talking.
  • Watching media interviews is a good way to recognize what active listening doesn’t look like. Learn from the mistakes of others.

How to Encourage Active Listening?

Follow the below tips to encourage Active Listening

Find a topic that interests you both. If you’re trying to get to know someone, you should consider finding a topic that interests both of you.

Model good listening skills yourself. If you’re trying to teach someone and are just not a good listener, be a better listener yourself. It’s better to make the person you’re talking to learn how to be a good listener

Exit the conversation. If person doesn’t seem to be interested in what you have to say, exit the conversation.

Barriers to active listening

There may be several factors that can interrupt a person’s listening comprehension. They are referred to as listening blocks. Such blocks include rehearsing, filtering, and advising. Listening blocks refer to several factors that may impede someone’s ability to listen with purpose and intention. Because the person speaking is not dominating the conversation, listening well is crucial for business-related conversations; however, other factors can cause barriers to taking in all the information provided.

  • Rehearsing is when you are so focused on your response that you don’t fully listen. This can cause listeners to misunderstand what a speaker truly means.
  • Hearing only what you expect to hear, or hearing only what you want to hear, is called filtering. Avoid filtering when you listen, and instead, pay attention to what is being said.
  • Advising focuses on guiding the speaker using advice and instruction. It creates pressure to fix what the other person is doing wrong, which can sometimes feel like an attack.

Hunger and fatigue result in irritability, and as a result, the listener will be less inclined to listen. Sometimes the speaker’s use of language is so complex it’s unclear what they mean. Other factors affecting your ability to actively listen include the presence of distractions, trigger words, a limited vocabulary, and a limited attention span.

Signs of Active Listening

  • Smiles can be powerful in affirming that you’re paying attention to what’s being said. You can also use nods and body language, like pointing your body towards the person and leaning forward a bit.
  • It is generally seen as encouraging for a listener to use eye contact because it shows that the listener is paying attention to the speaker. However, talking to someone shy may be more intimidating if you maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. Decide how much eye contact will work for the situation you are in and less shy speakers. Smile and nods of affirmation, body language, and other non-verbal messages can help encourage a shy speaker to talk with you.
  • Your posture is a reflection of your attitude toward others. The closer you are to a person, the more attentive you should be.
  • Signs of attentive listening include facial expressions that mirror the speaker’s, asking open-ended, follow-up questions, and writing key ideas from what is stated.
  • Active listeners show genuine interest in the speaker by leaning forward, making eye contact, shaking hands firmly, and adjusting body language to mirror the speaker’s.