Updated: Jan 22
Life is full of distractions and active listening is notoriously disrupted by cell phones, and other externally stimulating distractions, along with internal distractions and challenges. It is easy to notice when someone is not actively listening whether they are distracted by their electronics or avoiding eye contact during conversation. An active listener makes others feel cared for and comfortable and no matter what, we all want to feel seen and heard which is why active listening is a skill worth developing.
What is active listening?
Active listening is important in all types of relationships-- friends, family, professional and romantic.
Active listening requires giving someone your undivided attention, while continuously engaging in conversation with them. When you are talking to someone it is easy to begin judging or making up a story about what someone might say or how you think they will respond. It is important to start realizing when this is happening.
Active listening looks like verbal or non-verbal cues without disrupting the thoughts of the person you are conversing with. You can actively listen with all five senses, and in turn invite safety to a conversation. Safety and comfort encourage open sharing, and vulnerability.
Active listening is non-judgmental and remains neutral in nature. To be sure there is understanding, an active listener might paraphrase and repeat what the other person said. Repeating what someone else said lets them know you value what they say, and it also encourages them to continue openly sharing.
The Importance of Active Listening
Active listening pays an important role in resolving conflicts. An active listener makes others feel valued. Asking open-ended conversations encourages conversation to move and flow while still respecting and actively listening to others.
Active listening also builds trust. When you actively listen others feel support and empathy. There is a significant difference when critically listening. Critical listening involves evaluating with the intention of sharing your own opinion where as active listening ensures others feel heard. When people talk, especially about their problems, they often come to some of their own resolutions which can be incredibly helpful.
The Rules of active Listening
This is the shortlist of rules to follow when active listening:
Make and keep eye contact
Do not rush the speaker
Do not interrupt the speaker
Show the speaker respect
Do not ask about unimportant details, or focus too much on details. You might miss the bigger picture
Do not daydream
Do not pretend to pay attention
Be open and neutral
Do not be judgmental
Active listening and being a good conversation partner coincide. Remember, non-verbal skills are important, but verbal skills are even more important. Focusing on growing your active listening skills is invaluable and will have lasting effects on your relationships.