Mutual understanding is crucial for progress in all aspects of social life, from the workplace to relationships with your family members and friends.
However, the rigours of fast-paced daily life and numerous distractions tend to impair effective communication and listening.
Active listening pertaining to face-to-face communication, as instant messaging makes it easier for people to think and structure their responses. You must be able to properly assess the needs of other people within the time at their disposal. This minimises the likelihood of disputes, facilitate dispute resolution and deepen connections.
There are a host of techniques which one can adopt to improve active listening:
1. Keep gadgets aside during conversations
Gadgets are arguably the biggest impediments to active listening in today’s demanding, fast-paced world. Deadlines are never in short supply, leaving people at the mercy of their laptops and smartphones. There are endless online conversations and trending topics to keep up with.
However, active listening demands one’s undivided attention in face-to-face interactions, ranging from work meetings to romantic dates. Gadgets must simply stay down for the entirety of these interactions.
2. Balance commitments
Sometimes, you may have so many commitments which make it hard to keep gadgets aside for long during face-to-face interactions with family and friends.
As there are so many commitments to which you may not be able to devote adequate attention, you must consciously decide to take on a limited number of commitments and delegate tasks when necessary. This would make it easier to be more involved in informal interactions with friends and family.
3. Maintain eye contact
Eye contact is one of the biggest indicators that someone is invested in an interaction or activity. Whether an interaction is face-to-face or a teleconferencing call, one must make the conscious decision to keep their eyes on the person they are communicating with.
It is a respectful gesture that makes the other person feel seen and it facilitates deeper understanding of what is being said.
4. Pay attention to non-verbal cues, for the unsaid
There is more to communication and listening than spoken words. you must also pay attention to non-verbal cues, such as rapid eye movements and fidgeting hands. Even in the most comfortable and conducive of settings, one may still be unsettled and unable to keep themselves in check.
By putting spoken words and non-verbal cues together, a person will have a better sense of how to effectively respond to the other party’s needs.
5. Ask questions, especially when in doubt
Asking questions is arguably the most effective means by which you can understand the message another person seeks to convey. On the other hand, the person passing across a message would also have little doubt that they are not speaking in vain.
Questions help one get the full picture of things and potentially incites further attention.
6. Keep biases in check
Everyone has preconceived notions and biases. These biases tend to impair active listening, such that a speaker revealing a conflicting notion may be distracting for a listener.
However, active listening demands that one must prepare to encounter contradictory viewpoints in various interactions. It also demands that you must consciously subdue judgmental feelings in order to get the message other people are passing across.