ACTIVITY: active listening

Active listening is hard.

In the earlier videos I outlined ‘how’ to actively listen – eye contact, open questions, paraphrase and summarize, body posture etc – but more important than any of these is attitude and intent.

You have to want to listen.

Now, of course, we would all say, “But of course I want to listen”. However, I mean, really want to listen. Not simply, catch the drift of what someone is saying and then giving your thoughts.

I mean 100% focusing on understanding their perspective. Listening for what they don’t say. Evaluating their choice of words. Considering their tone of voice, posture, facial expressions and eye movements.

Effective active listeners help the other person to communicate better. Often people don’t say what they mean. It’s not that they are trying to deceive, it’s that they are thinking on-the-fly. Their thoughts are only half-formed. Or they have leapt to a conclusion based on little evidence and yet express their views with absolute certainty.

Taking what someone – anyone – says at face value is a recipe for misunderstanding.

Active listening is the foundation of communication and influencing.

“Seek first to understand, then be understood.”

Habit 5, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey

And yet, active listening is hard. It takes lots of practice.

Over the next week, try to be an active listener. Begin conversations with Covey’s principle in mind and hold back from giving your opinions and ideas. Use all the techniques that we have explored in this section. 

I would be very surprised if you aren’t surprised by the difficulty of doing this.

Let me know how it goes – leave your comments below.

Don’t mark this topic as complete until you have consciously practised active listening at least 5 times.