Listening can be active or passive. It is the practice of taking what you hear and extracting meaning. Active listening is the ability to comprehend and repeat what you have heard. Passive listening is the practice of sitting quietly without responding verbally, as we so often do when listening to music, a podcast, or the news. But, have you ever given a second thought about what kind of listener you are. Are you an active or passive listener? Do you focus on what the speaker said or more about what the speaker meant to say? Those questions may answer if you are active or passive, but more importantly, if you are an Effective Listener.
Effective listening is more of an active skill. Effective listeners practice being present and are in the moment. Although effective listening requires the development of specific techniques for receiving, organizing, and interpreting information, when communicating with others, we should also be mindful that effective listening is an exchange of energy between speaker and listener. Listening and speaking is the act of giving and receiving the flow of thoughts, feeling, and energy, both positive and negative. How many times ‘your better half has had to ask, are you listening?
Even though listening is one of the essential communication skills we use most frequently, it is the skill we give our least attention. Have you ever had any training in effective listening? Effective listening can help us understand ourselves and better understand others. We all are guilty of not being in the moment when conversing to others. While we are listening, our brain will sometime begin to wander. Just as wandering eyes would never see, a wandering brain will seldom hear. Physically we may be there, but mentally if you are over there, wherever that over there is, you will not be practicing effective listening, and you would most likely hear – are you listening?
In the world of public speaking, there are fast talkers and slow listeners. Most speakers speak at an average rate of about 125 wpm- words per minute. Studies show we can process in the region of 400 wpm. This difference between speaking speed and thought speed means that when we listen to the average speaker, we are using only 25 percent of our mental capacity. Because we still have 75 percent to do something else, our minds will wander. I have found that if we practice slowing the brain down by controlling our breathing and energy, we will begin to see a significant improvement in how you receive, organize, and interpret what we hear. Make it your goal to be an effective listener. Effective listening is a skill that will help you identify vital information quickly and improve your daily interactions with others. The following are a few tips we all could practice to becoming an effective listener:
- Respect the speaker’s point of view – Silence yours.
- Relax and remain engaged – Breather naturally to control your energy.
- Do not pass judgment – Remember nonverbal cues, body language, and gestures are indicators of how you are interpreting the information you are receiving.
- Avoid interrupting. Wait for your turn. Ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding.
- Give nonverbal cues to demonstrate your interest.
- Conclude with a summary statement to demonstrate you clearly understood what the speaker said.
Whether you are an active or passive listener, it really doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you are present; you are in the moment, giving and receiving energy and above all, achieving your goal of being an effective listener.