Research shows that we remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear.

This means that when you are given directions or being presented with information, you are not hearing the whole message.

You hope the important parts are captured in your 25-50%, but what if they are not?

So, what is active listening?

We can all benefit from improving our listening skills and the way to become a better listener is to practise ‘active listening’. This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, to try to understand the complete message being delivered.

How can I actively listen?

Step 1: Pay Attention

  • Look at the speaker directly. Put aside distracting thoughts.
  • Avoid being distracted by environmental factors.
  • Listen to the speaker’s body language.
  • Try to avoid side conversations when listening in a group setting.

Step 2: Show that you are listening:

  • Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
  • Nod, occasionally.
  • Smile and use other facial expressions.
  • Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
  • Encourage the speaker to continue, by making small verbal comments like “yes” and “uh huh”.

Step 3: Provide Feedback

  • Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is” and “Sounds like you are saying” are great ways to reflect back.
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say…?” “Is this what you mean?”
  • Occasionally summarise the speaker’s comments.

Step 4: Avoid jumping to conclusions:

  • Allow the speaker to finish.
  • Do not interrupt with counter arguments.

Tips to help you listen more actively

  • Prepare yourself, if necessary (meetings etc.).
  • Take notes to keep you focused.
  • Wiggle your toes or maybe squeeze a ball.
  • Repeat the speaker’s words mentally to stay focused.

Try out these techniques and see if they help you to listen more actively, and let us know how you get on!

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