Active Listening: Techniques to Improve Communication

Reviewed & edited by Lenny Terra -This blog is supported by its readers. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Active listening is a technique that can improve communication in many different situations. It’s not just about making sure the other person feels heard; it also enhances your understanding of what they are trying to say. This article will cover some active listening techniques that you can use in everyday life and at work!

What is Active Listening?

active listener

Active listening is a communication technique that involves paying close attention to the other person, making sure you understand what they are saying, and responding in a way that shows you are taking their words into account.

When you are actively listening, you make a point to avoid distractions and focus on the other person. This helps ensure that you understand the message they are trying to communicate. Active listening can be used in both personal and professional settings, and it can help resolve conflicts and build relationships.

What are the benefits of active listening?

When you actively listen to someone, you are taking the time and making an effort to understand their opinions, ideas, feelings, or concerns. This can help deepen your connection with that person, and it allows you to learn more about their point of view, which is vital in any relationship. Active listening also helps you avoid misunderstandings, which is especially helpful in work and professional interactions. Here is a list of some key benefits of active listening:

  • Improved communication.
  • A better understanding of the other person’s point of view.
  • Less conflict.
  • Stronger relationships.
  • Decreased stress and anxiety.
  • Enhanced problem-solving skills
  • Reduced misunderstandings.

Why is active listening essential in the workplace?

active listener work

Active listening is vital in the workplace for several reasons. When you are actively engaged in communication with your co-workers, it helps to ensure that everyone feels heard and respected.

It can also help solve issues quickly because active listeners make an effort to understand all sides of a story before jumping to conclusions or making judgments.

Active listening can also be helpful for conflict resolution because it allows the co-workers to understand each other better and find common ground.

Your co-workers, boss, or employees will all appreciate the effort you put into active listening, which can also improve your interactions with them. 

Why don’t we listen?

There are many reasons why we might not listen to someone, but the most common reason is that we are not programmed to focus on the speaker.

Most of us think faster than we speak, and our brains are often busy thinking about what we want to say next or planning out a response instead of actively listening to someone else.

Other common reasons include distraction from background noise or other people talking nearby, feelings like frustration or anger toward the person speaking, having an emotional reaction to what is being said, and feeling like we already know what the other person is going to say.

How to listen actively?

There are a few key things to keep in mind when trying to listen actively.

Make eye contact.

It can be challenging to focus on the other person if you are not making eye contact. When you make eye contact, you can pay closer attention to their words and body language.

You can also show the other person that you are interested in what they say by maintaining eye contact. This will help keep them talking and help you to understand them better.

Avoid distractions.

When you’re actively listening, it’s important to avoid distractions. This means putting away your phone and not letting yourself be pulled into other conversations. You need to be focused on the person who is speaking to understand them and respond accordingly.

Don’t judge.

When you are actively listening, it’s crucial to avoid judgmental thoughts about what the person is saying or judging their body language. This can make the other person feel defensive and cause them to clam up.

Instead, you should focus on what they are saying and how it makes you feel.

Ask questions for clarification.

If you don’t understand something, this is the perfect time to ask a question to be clarified. This will help you better understand what is being said, and it also shows the other person that you are actively engaged in listening to them.

Summarize and reflect on what you’ve heard.

This is a great way to ensure that you understand everything said and show the other person that you are engaged in the conversation. It can also help to resolve any misunderstandings that may have arisen if both parties can agree on what was said.

Don’t give advice.

It’s easy to jump in and try to solve a problem for someone, but this can be frustrating for the person who is speaking because they want someone to listen and understand their point of view.

If you have advice on how they can solve the problem, offer it later after the other person has had a chance to explain their situation and only if they ask for your help.

Refer back to what has been said.

This is a great way to keep the conversation flowing and ensure that everyone is on the same page. It can also help to show the other person that you are taking their comments seriously and that you are interested in what they have to say.

Don’t interject.

If the other person is talking, don’t interject with your thoughts or opinions unless you are asked to share them. This is a great way to show that you are actively listening and interested in what the other person has to say.

Don’t fake it.

If you’re not interested in what the other person has to say, it is best to be honest, and let them know. This will save you both from an uncomfortable conversation, and it can also help maintain your relationship with the other person. Avoid faking it, as this can lead to misunderstandings and broken trust.

Clarify misunderstandings.

If you think there may have been a misunderstanding, take the time to ask the other person about it. This will help to clear things up, and it can also help to prevent any further misunderstandings from happening in the future.

Use body language that is open and inviting.

When you are actively listening, it’s important to use body language to show the other person that they are your focus. This means keeping your body open and facing them, maintaining eye contact, and not crossing your arms or legs.

Respect silence.

If the other person is taking a moment to gather their thoughts, respect that and don’t try to fill the silence. This can be difficult, especially if you are anxious to share your thoughts about the topic at hand, but everyone must have a chance to speak.

Avoid minimization.

When you actively listen, it’s important to avoid minimizing what the other person is saying. This can make them feel like their thoughts and opinions don’t matter, and you aren’t listening to them.

Respect their emotions.

Everyone has different ways of showing their emotions, and it’s essential to respect the other person’s way of expressing themselves. This means not trying to change or judge how they feel and simply listening to what they have to say.

Don’t be condescending.

When you’re actively listening to someone, don’t be condescending. Don’t act like you know more than the other person or that you’re better than them. This will only make the other person feel uncomfortable, and it can ruin the rapport you have built up.

Don’t finish sentences.

Don’t finish the other person’s sentences for them or try to predict what they will say next. This will make them feel like you’re not really listening to them and that you’re just trying to control the conversation.

Examples of active listening.

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of active listening let’s look at some examples.

When your spouse is talking, don’t think about everything you want to say and jump right in. Instead, take a moment to reflect on what they are saying and make sure you understand it. Let them talk about their day, even if they don’t give you the details you want. Try to avoid interjecting and wait until they are finished talking to share your thoughts.

example active listeining

If you’re at a meeting, pay attention to the person speaking and avoid thinking about what you want to say next. Make an effort to keep your body language open, maintain eye contact with the speaker, and not interrupt. If you need to take a moment to gather your thoughts, let the other person know by nodding or saying “I see,” but don’t fill the silence. Ask clarifying questions if you need to to make sure you understand everything.

If your family member is speaking to you about their feelings, try to avoid telling them how they should feel or what they should do about it. Instead, listen to them and let them express themselves. Try not to judge or minimize their feelings and offer support if they need it. Recap what they have said to show that you are listening and give them time to reflect on what is being discussed.

If your colleague is speaking, try not to interrupt them or finish their sentences for them. Let them tell you about the assignment they gave out, and don’t try to guess what it was. If you have any questions, wait until they are finished speaking to ask. Avoid making assumptions and instead let the colleague explain everything in their own words.

During a conversation with your best friend, make sure you give them 100% of your attention and maintain eye contact. Don’t talk over them or try to finish their sentences for them. Make an effort to listen to what they are saying, and take a moment to think about your response before you jump in. Don’t try to control the conversation by finishing sentences for them, guessing what they might say next, or trying to make them feel like their thoughts and emotions aren’t valid. If your friend is upset about something that happened at work, try to avoid telling them they are overreacting or that it’s not a big deal. Just listen to what they have to say and offer your support.

Practicing active listening at home and work.

Active listening can be practiced in any situation, whether at home with your family or friends or at work with your colleagues.

Practice listening to others and actively demonstrating your interest by asking questions. Try not to finish sentences or make assumptions, but instead listen without judging the other person’s thoughts and feelings.

Remember that active listening is about showing someone you care. Communicating and understanding what they are saying will help build trust between you and the speaker, so they feel safe opening up to you in future conversations.

Be patient with each conversation as it unfolds naturally according to how the speaker wants it to go. If there’s a lull in the conversation, don’t be afraid of taking a moment before jumping back into it again! As long as both parties are willing participants, this can create opportunities for a new dialogue on subjects that might have been unexplored otherwise.

What if the conversation doesn’t go the way you want it to?

If the conversation goes off on a tangent, don’t be afraid to gently bring it back around to what you wanted to discuss. It’s okay to steer the conversation back in the direction you want it to go, as long as both parties are still interested in continuing. Just make sure you aren’t making assumptions about what the other person wants from the conversation.

If the other person gets upset or defensive, take a step back and try to understand their point of view. Don’t get defensive yourself, and avoid making assumptions about why they are upset. If you can’t understand where they are coming from, ask questions to gain clarity.

Active listening takes practice, but it’s worth it!

What do I do if someone is not active listening?

If you feel like the other person is not actively listening to you, you can do a few things.

What do I do if someone is not active listening

First, try to get their attention. You can do this by making eye contact and speaking in a clear voice. Once you have their attention, ask them if they listen to you.

If they say yes, but don’t seem interested or aren’t following along, ask them why they think that might be the case. If they’re not sure, offer some suggestions. Maybe they’re not interested in the topic, or perhaps they’re too busy to focus on what you’re saying.

If the other person is still not following along or seems to be zoning out, you can try summarizing what you’ve said up to that point. This will help them understand the main topics of your conversation and might help them pay more attention.

If all else fails, you can always end the conversation and come back to it later when both of you have more time. Just make sure to follow up and continue the conversation later on!

Do’s and Don’ts of Active Listening

You can do a few things to ensure your active listening is going smoothly, and some you should avoid.

Do: 

  • Make eye contact with the speaker.
  • Nod your head to show that you are listening.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Listen without judging.
  • Ask questions to clarify points.
  • Summarize what you’ve heard to ensure understanding.
  • Take a moment to reflect on what the speaker has said before responding.
  • Demonstrate that you are interested in what the speaker is saying by asking questions.
  • Be patient and let the conversation unfold naturally.

Don’t: 

  • Interrupt the speaker.
  • Don’t look at your phone or other distractions.
  • Don’t think about what you’re going to say next.
  • Finish sentences for the speaker.
  • Make assumptions about what the speaker is saying.
  • End conversations abruptly.
  • Judge or criticize what the speaker is saying.
  • Get defensive or upset if the conversation doesn’t go your way.

Conclusion.

Active listening is a communication technique used to improve the understanding of another person by attentively and non-judgmentally accepting their thoughts and feelings. It’s essential for leaders, managers, or anyone who wants to succeed in life and work.

In this article, we’ve covered what active listening is and how to do it. We also talked about some things you should avoid doing when actively listening and a few things to keep in mind while listening.

When was the last time you listened to another person attentively? Do you think active listening could help improve your communication? Let us know in the comments!

Authors

  • Joanna Perez is a Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Practitioner, a passionate blogger, writer, traveler, wife, and mother of one boy. Joanna loves to share her thoughts on parenting, health, wellness, and lifestyle. She is a Certified Women Empowerment Life Coach and has done courses on Life Mastery, Happiness, Health, and Success. She also has studied Neuroscience for Parents and took the Skilled Helper Training Course. She believes in helping people become the best version of themselves and strives to provide quality informative and inspiring content. She loves animals, especially her two cats, and can often be found taking photos of them as they pose for the camera.

  • Gabrielle J. Smith is a Human Resources professional, writer, blogger, and mother of three. One of her hobbies is educating herself (and others) about job hunting and resume writing. She has helped many people through her career and continues to share knowledge with the masses in order to help them gain meaningful employment. One of Gabrielle’s favorite subjects is what she has coined “resume tricks,” and she says there are many of them. She has been blogging for the last four years, and her advice has been featured on many important sites in order to help job seekers in their searches. Gabrielle’s advice is always sound and to the point, and she shows no sign of slowing down.

Leave a Comment