Relational conflict is one of the greatest causes of stress and anxiety, often caused because we haven’t understood another person’s point of view. Whilst they may not have been clear it is also possible that we’ve mis-heard what they’ve said or not asked the right questions.
The sad truth is we are not good listeners. The 21st century is full of noise and distractions that prevent us from hearing what’s being said. The technique of ‘active listening’ can bring clarity, minimise misunderstandings and make the other person feel valued.
Active listening is where we make a conscious effort not only to hear the words that the other person is saying, but also to understand the complete message that’s being transmitted.
This requires complete and total attention by the listener to the speaker, blocking out distractions and focusing exclusively on the other person, even to the point of resisting the temptation to formulate a mental response to what is being said. Here are some active listening tips:
- Mentally repeat what is being said to maintain concentration
- Look closely at the other person’s manner, expression and body language
- Acknowledge what’s being said by nodding and giving verbal ‘uh huhs’
- If you agree, smile and use affirming statements such as ‘I understand’ and ‘Yes’
- If something’s not clear ask a clarifying question ‘Are you saying that…’
- Periodically recap what you’ve been told to demonstrate you’ve heard ‘What I’m hearing is…’
- Be conscious of your internal voice/emotion responding to what you are hearing
- Don’t draw premature conclusions or pass judgment – the speaker will become defensive and may clam up
Next time you’re having a face-to-face conversation with someone, try this approach and see what else you hear.