Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you feel their attention is somewhere else? Whether socially or in the workplace, we all want to feel that the person we are communicating with understands us and is taking an interest in what we are saying. The following CPD article will look at what active listening is and why it is a vital communication tool to learn.
What is Active Listening?
In 1957, psychologists Carl Rogers and Richard Farson conceived the concept of ‘Active Listening’. It can be defined as a form of listening that “requires that we get inside the speaker, that we grasp, from his point of view, just what it is he is communicating to us.” Later on, the definition of active listening was simplified to ‘the activity of paying attention to and trying to get meaning from something we hear’.
In other words, it’s more than just technically hearing. It is actively involving ourselves so the person communicating to us knows that we understand what they are trying to communicate.
How does active listening help in communication?
Active Listening is an essential tool that we have all used. If the communicator is saying something that is important to them, they want to feel valued and for people to intentionally listen to what they say rather than casually hearing. This reassures them that they are being listened to, and that the listener is interested and understands what they are communicating.
The communicator knowing that you understand them, brings trust to the relationship. This can help alleviate discrepancies in important information being conveyed. It’s particularly vital in mediation, so the ‘middle man’ truly understands each side. There are a number of ways by which we can ensure that the other person knows you are listening. These can include the following:
- Focus on the intent and purpose of the conversation.
- Give the speaker all of your attention, put down your phone.
- Look at the speaker directly, make eye contact
- Look at the speaker’s body language and non-verbal communication, what does it say to you?
- Ensure the conversation is happening in a location devoid of environmental distractions.
- If you are in a work environment, it may be appropriate to take notes.