Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Techniques for Active Listening

Active, effective listening is a habit,
as well as the foundation of effective communication.
Active listening intentionally focuses on who you are listening to, whether in a group or one-on-one, in order to understand what he or she is saying. As the listener, you should then be able to repeat back in your own words what they have said to their satisfaction.  This does not mean you agree with, but rather understand, what they are saying.
What affects listening?
What do you think of the
subject matter?

Is it new or have you a lot of experience with it? Will it be difficult to understand, or simple? Is it important to you, or just fun?
Is the speaker experienced or nervous?
What are the  non-verbal cues of the speaker? What frame of mind is he or she?
How personable, threatening, intelligent, etc.?
Is the message illustrated with
with visuals or examples?
Is technology used effectively?
Are concepts introduced incrementally,
or with examples?
Is the space conducive to listening?
or to interaction or exchange with the speaker? Are there avoidable distractions?

Described above are the external factors.
Now:what about you, the center, the listener?
Prepare with a positive, engaged attitude
  • Focus your attention on the subject
    Stop all non-relevant activities beforehand to orient yourself
    to the speaker or the topic
  • Review mentally what you already know about the subject
    Organize in advance relevant material in order to develop it further
    (previous lectures, TV programs, newspaper articles, web sites, prior real life experience, etc.)
  • Avoid distractions
    Seat yourself appropriately close to the speaker
    Avoid distractions (a window, a talkative neighbor, noise, etc.)
  • Acknowledge any emotional state
    Suspend emotions until later, or
    Passively participate unless you can control your emotions
  • Set aside your prejudices, your opinions
    You are present to learn what the speaker has to say,
    not the other way around
Actively listen
  • Be other-directed; focus on the person communicating
    Follow and understand the speaker as if you were walking in their shoes
    Listen with your ears but also with your eyes and other senses
  • Be aware: non-verbally acknowledge points in the speech
    Let the argument or presentation run its course
    Don't agree or disagree, but encourage the train of thought
  • Be involved:
    Actively respond to questions and directions
    Use your body position (e.g. lean forward) and attention to encourage the speaker and signal your interest
Follow up activities
Give the speaker time and space
for rest after talking
Express appreciation for the sharing
to build trust and encourage dialogue

Check if you have understood
  • Restate
    key points to affirm your understanding
    & build dialogue
  • Summarize
    key points to affirm your understanding
    & build dialogue
  • Ask (non-threatening) questions
    to build understanding
Continue dialogue:
  • Reflect on your experience
    to demonstrate your interest (feedback)
  • Interpret
    after you feel you have grasped content
  • Apply what you have learned
    to a new situation
In a group/audience
Give the speaker space to regroup,
to debrief after talking
During Q & A
If posing a question
  • Quickly express appreciation
  • Briefly summarize a preliminary point
  • Ask the relevant question
If making a point
  • Quickly express appreciation
  • Briefly restate the relevant idea
    as presented
  • State your idea, interpretation, reflection
  • Invite a response
Continued development
  • Get contact information
    for later reference
  • Invite friends/colleagues/etc.
    for discussion afterward
  • Write out a summary with questions
    for further review

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