Attending refers to the verbal, vocal and visual messages that the active listener sends back to the speaker acknowledging the speaker and their message. This also establishes a receptive listening setting, away from distractions, private without invading the speakers “personal space.”
Responding is when the listener gets feedback on the accuracy of the speaker’s content and feelings, tries to gather more information, attempts to make the speaker feel understood and encourages the speaker to understand themselves, their problems and concerns better.
How to Develop Active Listening Skills
There are some basic points that people can focus to learn in order to stimulate better understanding and become active listeners:
1) Turning off the internal voice.-
Everyone has an internal voice that chatters away throughout everyday experiences, listeners must keep those moments of listening to their inner voice to a time when they are alone or relaxing. When they need to learn to develop their active listening skills they will need to concentrate on how they are listening to the other person.
2) Body Language.-
While active listening, it remains essential that all vocal nuances as well as changes in the intonation of the speaker’s voice are captured. Often as part of a defense to the revelation of information truth, a speaker will leave clues that require examination in order to respond accordingly. Similarly body-language provides a way of uniting the speaker and listener. It is necessary to learn how to read and respond to it.
It is also important to learn how to avoid bad body language. Listeners should maintain eye-contact to show they are giving their full undivided attention. They should always analyze, through self-reflection and self-awareness, their use of body language as they actively listen. Postural echo will help speakers feel at ease therefore an increased communication flow will be promoted.
3) Affirmative Nods.-
Listeners need to confirm that they’re following the flow of conversation by placing nods of confirmation at the appropriate cues in the conversation. Developing active listening skills utilizes this body language to great effect allowing speakers to continue talking without disrupting their communication flow. This is a key to developing active listening skills.
4) Paraphrasing to show understanding.-
Paraphrasing remains an essential part of developing active listening skills. When paraphrasing listeners are basically summarizing what the other person has just said. This active feedback loop has the effect of reconfirming to the listener that the listener has understood everything they’ve said and in its unique context. Developing active listening skills however should not be seen as a chance to second-guess speaker’s next words. Everybody would agree that it’s regarded as downright rude to guess the next words the speaker will mention. As another negative side to developing listening skills it also shows that listeners are trying to speed-up the conversation. Listeners always need to remember to speak as less as possible, putting themselves in a controlling position. They must ensure that they are giving the speaker the greatest opportunities to develop their own thoughts as well as ideas.
5) Expressing a natural state of empathy.-
Showing a genuine sense of empathy helps individuals feel not only relaxed as well as comfortable, but also that listeners really care. Through the presentation of an active genuine expression of empathy to the speaker the listener will win their heart and mind. Facial expression as well as gentle words helps show that they feel concern over their discourse. Developing active listening skills requires listener to analyze their position within the conversation. It remains essential that they understand how they “come across” as they listen. At first it may feel stifled but as active listening skills are developed, they’ll soon find that the marriage between using hearing as well as body language become almost natural.
It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if listening habits are as bad as many peoples are, then there’s a lot of habit-breaking to do!
Active Listeners must be deliberate and remind themselves frequently that their goal is to truly hear what the other person is saying. They need to set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message
Why is it so difficult for people become Active listeners?
Active listening is not an easy skill to acquire. It may require changes in basic attitudes. To be effective at all in active listening, people must have a sincere interest in the speaker. Developing an attitude of sincere interest in the speaker is thus no easy task. It can be developed only by being willing to risk seeing the world from the speaker’s point of view.
Active listening carries a strong element of personal risk. If listeners manage to accomplish what it is being described here: deeply sense the feeling of another person, understand the meaning his experiences have for him, to see the world as he sees it; listeners risk being changed themselves. It is threatening for the listener to give up, even momentarily, what they believe and start thinking in someone else’s terms. It takes a great deal of inner security and courage to be able to risk them in understanding another.
People are so accustomed to viewing themselves in certain ways (seeing and hearing only what they want to see and hear) that it is extremely difficult to free from the need to see things in these ways. To do this may sometimes be unpleasant, but it is far more difficult than unpleasant.
Carl Rogers stated that the natural tendency to evaluate from the listener’s own frame of reference, and approve or disapprove of what another person is saying, is the major barrier to successful interpersonal communication. He felt this was particularly the case when the topic was linked to strong emotions.
One of the reasons people are not good at listening is because they do not listen. Listening skills start with paying attention.
Coaches must be aware of their own filters, judgments, reactions, and thoughts; and acknowledge the presence of these potential distracters; then consciously choose to set them; this allows a focus wholly on the client. Client-centered psychology contends this is done by listening without judgment or bias, filtering the client’s words with unconditional positive regard, with belief that the client knows his/herself best, is critical to establishing trust (Silsbee, 2004; Wilkinsky, 2006).
Listening barriers may be psychological (e.g. emotions) or physical (e.g. noise and visual distraction). Cultural differences including speakers’ accents, vocabulary, and misunderstandings due to cultural assumptions often obstruct the listening process.