If you follow me on LinkedIn, you know I write and think and teach a lot about active listening.
Yet it can STILL be really hard to do!
There are so many reasons I love the concept and theory of active listening, and reasons I love to teach about active listening:
When you actively listen to someone, you connect more deeply with them.
It’s the ONLY way to concentrate to truly understanding another person’s perspective.
It demonstrates humility because it involves asking them if you understand them correctly, and if you do get it wrong, you just roll with it and try to actively listen again and ask them again - like a listening/asking cycle!
It’s applicable to SO many situations:
Managing a direct report
Working or volunteering with a team
Getting closer to a loved one
Learning what the heck your teenager is thinking
Trying to understand the point of view of someone whose beliefs are a polar opposite to you
Anytime you want to do someone a kindness
Helping a loved one grieve a loss, whether of another loved one, a dream, or something else
It’s a practical, every day tool we can use to exercise and deepen empathy, thereby enhancing our emotional intelligence skills.
It’s pretty simple to teach: each individual step is a relatively simple concept, in theory, it just takes practice to train your brain to do it automatically.
Teaching active listening helps me remember to DO it!
Yes, really - teaching active listening is one way I remind myself how important it is to practice what I preach. Sometimes during a training I will admit that it is particularly difficult for me to be an active listener in my personal life. In different personal situations, I might be feeling more relaxed or self-focused, and so I give in to my impulse to interrupt. Or, I might be busy with something else, and when I register that someone is talking to me about a problem, I just give out a solution without asking permission first - so I can get the issue resolved and go back to whatever it is holding my attention. But the truth is, each of these is an opportunity for me to be an active listener, to try to do better.
Active listening is the best way I know to attempt to engage in cognitive empathy, a somewhat academic phrase that basically means deciding to try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. It’s about taking someone else’s perspective, the best way to truly understand where they’re coming from.
Whether you’re talking to a team mate, a loved one, or a client, it’s truly a kindness to understand what their perspective is - it’s giving them the benefit of the doubt that, even if their perspective seems bonkers to you, they have a valid reason for holding it. Period.
If you want to try it out but aren’t sure where to start, download my free book, a short guide to active listening at work.