Everyday Superpower: Active Listening
Do you want to be able to better understand the people around you? Do you want your friends and family to feel they can relate to you more? Do you want to be more likely to get what you want?
Not many people know exactly what active listening is and much less how to take advantage of it. It’s a very important tool, because it helps you relate to others, resolve conflicts, understand feelings and others’ opinions, etc.
If we go by its scientific or official definition, active listening is “a way to pay more attention to the words (and gestures) said by others, which offers you insight into other people’s points of view and allows you to cooperate with them.”
Three main characteristics of active listening:
1. It requires effort on your part.
That’s how you’ll get the speaker to feel comfortable, understood, and free to express whatever they want. They’ll be able to focus on their feelings rather than their words. But of course, it’ll be hard at first, since we’re not used to it.
Simply try to be conscious of what the other person is saying, and stop focusing on what you want to say or reply. Your turn will come soon enough.
2. It’s not about pretending to listen… It’s about actually doing it!
It does no good to put on your best “I’m paying attention” face while a million things are going through your head: from the grocery list for the party this weekend, to what you need to study or how you’re going to manage to pay the bills. Active listening has two parts, listening on one hand and attitude on the other.
Listen to the other person, try to understand their words, the idea they’re trying to transmit…submerge yourself in the conversation.
3. Listening to gather information
Maybe at first it’ll be a bit difficult to stay focused on someone who’s talking nonstop, because maybe it’s a topic you’re not at all interested in. But, you can get something out of it.
This technique can be used for good or for evil; be very careful about that. The idea is to gather information to later help the other person, not to manipulate them.
Active listening is a superpower that we all possess, but have to consciously awaken. It generates good feelings in the other person and, above all, it strengthens our bonds with the people we love. Active listening builds trust, security and closeness.
You can use it to solve a conflict, act as a mediator in a problem between two friends, get to know your family and friends better, be someone worthy of trusting, and at the same time, lay the groundwork to become an excellent conversationalist.
But wait a minute! If we’re talking about listening, where does talking come into play? Simply, all of the information that we’ve gathered through listening can then be turned into a conversation, good advice, words of encouragement… you’ll be the best friend, colleague, parent, child, sibling that anyone has ever had! Now are you convinced that you can really develop a superpower?
Let’s stand out from rest and start practicing active listening. Let’s leave aside the “me, myself and I” that dominates our current conversations, and try to pay more attention to what others are saying.
And remember: we have two ears and only one mouth…so we should talk half as much as much as we listen (or listen twice as much as we talk)!