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Becoming an Effective Listener

Mel White - effective listening
Mel White - effective listening

Would you like to have a better connection with your clients, friends and family, be seen as trustworthy, described as a good friend and become more respected by the people in  your life?

Then you need to become an effective listener.

It doesn’t sound like much, but effective listening is essential for great communication, strong relationships and earning the trust and respect of those around you.

It’s the basis of creating and nurturing high quality relationships of all kinds in your life.

Best of all, it’s something that anybody can learn how to do – and I’d love to show you how YOU can use it to gain respect, greater connection and stronger relationships.

What is effective listening? 

Effective listening is also known as active listening.

A good definition of effective listening is:

“giving complete focus and sole concentration to what another person is saying; absorbing it all, seeking to understand, responding to let them know you have heard and understood.”

You are totally present, not thinking about how this relates to you, or what your weekend will be like.

There’s no drifting off into your own thoughts, in active listening!

Effective/Active Listening Example

As a coach, a huge part of my job is to listen intently to what my clients are saying. In every session, I listen for words and feelings behind them in my client’s dialogue that I can reflect back to them. 

This allows my clients to hear what they just said, so that they can get aha moments and insights into what’s going on, and to get a different (and more honest) perspective on a situation.

A fresh perspective often frees the person from their quagmire so they can take action and solve any challenges.

Here’s an example of effective (active) listening:

I’m working with my client Kate. She has had a tough weekend in a relationship situation which caused a head-first dive into a tub of ice cream.

M: “So Kate, what happened with Rick?”

K: “He doesn’t make any time for me and there are endless excuses as to why he can’t see me. I spent all of Saturday waiting for him to call and he DIDN’T – right after he promised to take me out for lunch. I was so irritated and upset!”

M: “I can hear how irritated you are.”

K: “Oh, I was so angry at the time I just needed to vent, but I stayed home and waited – stupid – and then at 5 o’clock I just pigged out on ice-cream.”

M: [making eye contact] “If I’m hearing you correctly, it sounds like you had a really rough afternoon and you needed some sort of relief at the end.”

K: “Exactly! The crazy thing is, I feel worse about eating all that ice-cream than I do about sitting at home waiting for Rick to call!”

M: “That’s interesting! What do you think that means?”

K: “It means that I need to pay more attention to myself and what I need rather than relying on someone else to make me feel good.”

M: [smiling] [silence]

K: “Yeah, I think I need to just tell Rick next Saturday that he needs to show up by 11am if he wants to have lunch with me – otherwise I’ll be going out doing something for myself!”

This is the power of effective listening. In this short example, Kate just needed to vent and hear her own words – without my thoughts, opinion, suggestions or sympathy getting in the way of her doing that.

The funny thing is, my clients often thank me for my ‘advice’ or ‘help’ – but there isn’t any. There is just listening, reflection and a few questions on my part, and giving my 100% non-judgmental attention to the matter at hand – with empathy. 

Steven Covey Says it Best

Personal development expert Steven Covey summarises the skill of active listening nicely.

In Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 5 is:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

If you think about the first part of that phrase, the only way you can seek to understand is to actively listen, putting aside all other thoughts, suspending your judgement and opinion.

Want to give it a go and see what happens in your own life? Here are some tips.

9 Simple Active Listening Techniques

Before your next conversation – at work, with a spouse, with your friend – read these tips to prepare yourself for effective listening.

  • Prepare for the conversation by turning off distractions and bringing 100% focus to the conversation ahead.
  • Shoo away intrusive thoughts and refocus.
  • Murmur to indicate you are listening.
  • Speak slowly and refrain from racing to speak.
  • Paraphrase what you hear when there are pauses in conversation.
  • Lean forward and make eye contact at times.
  • Clarify what you hear during the conversation (‘are you saying…?’) 
  • Summarise what you heard at the end (‘just to recap, it seems that…)
  • Put aside all judgement, opinion and thoughts.

Over to You

 Ok, time for you to practice listening to someone in your life.

Try it for yourself and discover what happens.

How did that person react?

How did active listening affect the rapport in the conversation?

What did that create?

I’d love to know how you go with this – let me know in the comments below.

And if you want to know more about active listening or being coached, click here

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