How to Improve Your Active Listening Skills

15 July, 2020
In today's article, we share tips to help you improve your active listening skills.
 

You probably think that you’re a good listener. But are you right? Can you improve your active listening skills? In this article, we share some strategies that can help you improve these skills and talk about the benefits of being a good listener.

What’s active listening? This term was created by Carl Rogers, an American psychologist. It’s one of the most important aspects of the interpersonal theory he proposed in 1942. Since then, the term has been used more broadly and in nearly every possible context.

Active listening is something you do voluntarily. It requires your full attention and intention. It’s an acquired skill, meaning you can train and improve it, just like any other skill. We call it “active” listening because it requires your participation. While passive listening doesn’t require effort or concentration, active listening is different.

Listening

Scientists Roger and Farson (1979) describe listening as the quality of creating change in other people’s lives. Also, they say that it has the power to inspire confidence, intimacy, safety, and empathy in the other person. That being said, however, science states that most people remember only 10-15 percent of everything that they hear.

Listening means focusing on the other person. After all, they’ve decided to share their experiences with you. That’s very special! Therefore, you should dedicate enough time and will to actively listen to another person.

To use this skill, you need to shut off your inner voice and stop listening to guilt, regret, blame, and anxiety. You do this so you can dedicate your entire self to the other person.

 

Although active listening also requires understanding, it doesn’t require responses. In fact, just paying attention will motivate the speaker to continue. When you feel that someone’s listening to you, you’re happy to keep going. It’s like an invitation to trust, open up, and share your thoughts and feelings. Listening also requires patience, which is part of what most of us need to work on if we want to improve.

The enemies of active listening

Some of the most important are:

  • Beliefs. Your beliefs condition the way you perceive the world. Listening to someone who doesn’t share your ideas can cause tension and rejection. However, if you want to improve your active listening skills, just try to focus your attention on the other person and not on yourself.
  • Expectations. The expectations you have of another person or situation influence how you listen. How many times have you disconnected from a conversation because you thought you knew how it would end? But did you really know what the other person was going to say? Expectations hinder active listening because you get distracted from what’s actually important: understanding the other person.
  • Aptitudes. Everyone is born with different aptitudes. Some people are better at listening, while others are better at talking. Some people are better at both and don’t seem to favor one or the other. Listening requires learning and training, which makes it like a sport. Some people might have more innate talents, but everyone needs to practice if they want to improve.
 
  • Attitude. What attitude do I have when I’m in a conversation that doesn’t interest me? What about when I’m talking to someone I don’t want to be around? Listening is an exercise of will that requires patience and a good attitude.
A couple arguing.

Learn how to listen

Below, discover the tips you should follow to improve your active listening:

  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Pay attention to your body language and your facial expressions.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Don’t judge or interpret what the other person is saying. Just listen.
  • Notice the person’s gestures and movements in addition to their words. Their non-verbal language is also important, meaning that you have to pay attention to it.
  • Every once in a while, try paraphrasing what they’re telling you. In other words, summarize what you’re hearing to make sure you’re understanding it right.
  • Provide feedback. In other words, nod or respond with verbal cues.
  • Keep the three Rs, reflect, rehearse, and review, in mind, as they’ll help you improve your active listening skills in a significant way.

Remember that most people are born with a sense of hearing. However, we aren’t’ born with active listening. This is an acquired skill that you can train. The enormous benefits of making someone else feel listened to is a great way to motivate yourself to improve.