Top 10 Tips on Active Listening
1. Be prepared
If we are rushing from one meeting to another, just off a call or finishing off an urgent task we’ve not ‘fully arrived’ and can still be in ‘getting here’ mode. So, to help you arrive, give yourself a few moments to capture any last-minute thoughts, take a few deep breathes in and get yourself fully comfortable in your seat. Now you can begin.
2. Connect with the other person
Using rapport, creating a level of TRUST, being empathetic and finding ways to connect with the other person emotionally helps us to ‘tune into them’ better. Look at your seating arrangement to see if it’s positive or are there barriers? Take a moment to check your body language and how it mirrors theirs. Do some small talk and finally listen and match your tone, pace and voice energy to theirs.
3. Whose agenda is it?
When someone has asked for some of your time to ‘talk’ then they have something on their mind. Remember it’s about them, not you, so take time to clarify what the real issue is for them and explore their current thinking and how they would like to resolve it.
4. Pay attention to what is around you
Listening at level 3 or ‘we listening’, we can notice body language along with the mood of the room and what else is going on around the situation. Bring these details into the conversation as an ‘observation’ and let the comment land and let go of the outcome.
5. Test your understanding
Ask to clarify what you’ve just heard, by using their words exactly but without repeating what they’ve said word for word. You can also share what your understanding or meaning of what they are saying is, which will confirm to them that you are really listening.
6. Ask KIDS Questions
Kids are naturally curious and not attached to whether they have asked a brilliant question or not. Take some inspiration from them by asking K – KISS or keep it super simple questions. I – pay attention to your Intention. D – Don’t show off and S – what’s needed in their Shoes.
7. Building blocks
By building on someone’s ideas we let them know we’ve listened to what they’ve said. A simple way of doing this without looking as if it was your idea is to say, ‘what you said about x is really interesting’ or ‘you’ve made me think about y’.
8. Observational feedback
When we listen to people we should listen to want they are saying (listening at level 2) as well as to what they are not saying, or how they are saying it and how their words make you feel (listening at level 3). Giving observational feedback on ‘when you said this I felt’ or ‘I noticed that when you said that, you….’ demonstrates a deeper level of listening that taps into the unconscious thinking of the other person.
9. The list of don’ts
We can sometimes get caught up the conversation that we forget what we shouldn’t really do that takes the attention away from the other person, or even worse, makes them fee as if they are not good enough. So, don’t: interrupt, ask multiple questions (remember KISS), offer solutions (you know you’ll want to!), fill the silence (they may be thinking), use your words instead of theirs or assume you know how they feel (sympathise instead of empathise). Just listen with an open mind and open heart.
Being able to recap what’s being said, using their words helps to clarify very quickly what has been said succinctly. In a coaching context, it’s even better to ask the person to summarise for themselves as they distil their thinking that is more meaningful for them.
Join me on the free webinar hosted by APS on Monday 25th May at 2pm on Supportive Conversations - moving from tell to ask, to hear more coaching-based tools and techniques to use in the workplace.
Ask me for the registration details.