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World Wide Group™

Improve your active listening skills in 5 steps

It’s important to remember that the way in which we listen is the way we make others around us feel cared for, valued, and heard. Active listening skills help accomplish this! Building connection with each other, learning to understand each other, and growing together are all benefits of active listening! 

We’ve discussed before on this blog about how important it is to listen (and learn). Don’t remember? Click here! We all know that listening is an important skill, but there’s a huge difference between active listening and every other type of listening. It’s easy to pay attention with the intent to react to what someone is saying, or to turn the conversation back to you and your priorities.  

Two ladies sitting on swings talking to one another.

What is active listening?

Active listening involves not just hearing what another person says, but understanding as well. It’s a combination of using all of your senses, plus providing verbal and nonverbal cues.  

Sounds like a lot to remember when the goal is to be doing something as “simple” as listening, right? It is! Active listening takes more effort and requires more attention on the part of the “listener.” 

What are the benefits of active listening?

Aside from the connections you’re building, the relationships you’re improving, and the ideas/thoughts/opinions you’re learning, listening offers SO much. The more you learn, the more you understand. The more you understand, the better you feel. The better you feel, the better the person you’re listening to feels. The better they feel, the more comfortable they will be sharing with you … creating a stronger foundation to your relationship, less stress for everyone, and the beginning of great communication skills!    

Need a brush-up on your communication skills? Click here! 

A girl in a coffee shop listening to someone talk to her. She's holding up her coffee and looking at them.

Here are five ways you can work toward being a better active listener today!

1. Learn

Make it your goal in every conversation to learn something from the other person. If we initiate conversation and all of our interactions knowing that we are always open to learning, we will … you guessed it … learn!   

2. Ask

Ask open-ended questions. By asking questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer, you will continue the conversation, engage and show that you’re interested in what the other person has to say, and find out howthey feel about it. #alwayslearning. Yes or no questions are sometimes easier to ask, but real connection and relationships require more. You won’t regret it!  

Need a few open-ended question examples to get you going?

Use the questions below and adjust them to fit your conversation. The biggest take-away? Make them questions that fit your conversation that need to be answered with more than a “yes” or “no.” 

  • Can you help me understand that a little better?
  • How’s your life changed since we last spoke?
  • How does that make you feel? 
  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What do you find exciting in your life right now?
  • What are your goals and how do you plan on reaching them?
  • What are your biggest concerns for the future?

3. Stop

Stop talking, make eye contact, and focus on what the person speaking is saying. Put the phone away, stop thinking about the story you’re going to tell after they’re done speaking, don’t cut them off when they’re sharing, hear what they’re saying and find meaning in it. Listen to listen, not to respond. 

Someone handing a black heart to someone else.

4. Feel

Be empathetic (this is not the same as sympathetic). Do you know the difference? These two words seem (and sometimes feel) the same, but they aren’t. It’s important to know the difference! Sympathy isn’t bad, but empathy will help you understand someone more thoroughly!

Sympathy is when you share concern for someone and perhaps a situation they are experiencing, and you wish for a specific outcome for them. It’s your own feelings placed on someone else’s situation.  

Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in the situation of someone else: to feel the emotions, opinions, and ideas of that person. It’s allowing yourself to feel how that person might feel.  

Want more definitions? Click here! 

5. Be Positive

Encourage and promote further conversation. Encourage the person speaking to continue to share by showing them you’re listening. Smile, nod, lean forward to engage, ask questions, offer a compliment… your encouragement and positivity are contagious! 

Two ladies smiling and writing in their notebooks.

Needless to say, we can all likely put to use one or all of these suggestions in our conversations.  

Pick one (or three!) and work toward incorporating it into building up and strengthening your relationships. It won’t happen overnight, and it will take work (maybe even uncomfortable work, sorry!). But, if you keep after it, you’ll start to see the benefits: Your connections will be stronger and you’ll find that we all have something to learn from each other.  

What are some ways you engage in active listening and how has it helped your relationship with others? Comment below! 

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