The Art of Active Listening

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. – Ernest Hemingway

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. – Stephen R. Covey

We don’t listen enough. I’m guilty of it. You are guilty of it.

We hear, but many times we just aren’t listening. And the ability to actively LISTEN is imperative to being successful in both our work and personal lives.

What does active listening look like?

I found a great definition in the website:

The act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech.

The key word here is “mindfully.” One of the barriers to being an effective listener is not being “present” when you are listening to another person. We are hearing the words, but our mind is elsewhere. We are preoccupied with other thoughts.

Some of the other barriers to active listening include:

  • We are not patient, and tend to jump in to finish the other person’s sentence
  • We are so anxious to respond that we don’t listen to the other person
  • We have already jumped to a predetermined conclusion, so we don’t even bother listening
  • We are distracted by the increasing interruptions in our lives, especially electronic
  • We have very short attention spans

When we don’t actively listen, we cheat ourselves – and the people in our lives. Actively listening signals to the person speaking that you value what he or she is saying. It also enriches your life because it offers you the opportunity to learn something new.

And when a friend is in pain, it gives you the opportunity to truly empathize and not just make a superficial connection.

It is essential to practice actively listening every day.  In each interaction, be aware of HOW you are listening. Give the other person your undivided attention. Learn to pause for a couple of seconds before offering a reply. Ask meaningful questions. Be present.

Make active listening a priority. You will be surprised how much this skill will enhance your life.