Listening Skills

    • How often have you come away from a conversation feeling like you just weren't heard? How does that make you feel about the other person? About the prospects for a satisfying, stimulating relationship? About working together? About yourself?

      Being a good listener is not enough to create a communicative, respectful, conflict-resolving relationship — but it's utterly essential to that process. And it's a good place to start.

      You may have already come across the following phrases: active, reflective or empathic listening. These all describe listening that is more than silence. It means:

      • Asking clarifying questions, e.g., "I want to make sure I understand, do you mean....?"
      • Summarizing, e.g., "So basically, you are saying that..."
      • Paraphrasing or reflecting back what they just said, e.g., "So you're really having a rough time with this" or simply, "Unhappy, eh?"

      What good does this do? Try it. You will usually find that active listening works well in many ways:

      • it takes the pressure off you to come up with an immediate response — it gives you time to understand more fully and to relax .
      • it builds rapport with the other person . You're not thinking about your response when they're speaking, you're first simply trying to understand. People like that. Also, in listening you will often find yourself actually appreciating the other person more.
      • it defuses anger, frustration and anxiety. When given a chance to vent our feelings and someone else is really listening and giving us the time we need to express ourselves, most of us naturally calm down. We ourselves become ready to listen and even problem-solve.
      • You get more information. The more information you have, the more effective and relevant your response will be.