Listening is thought of as a soft skill. Perhaps the softest of the soft skills. What’s the big deal we might ask? We listen every day. It’s something we learned to do as children and it comes naturally. And yet, I’m going to suggest that it is not that easy.
There is a lot going on during communication. The speaker has to put into words not just information but often complex perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and intent.
Then a listener has to decode this message through a filter of their own biases, attitudes, beliefs, feelings, motives, and life experiences. And to make it all the more complex, experts tell us that words make up only about 11% of the message in face to face communication. Tone of voice is about 35% of the message and body language as well as other contextual cues make up about 55%. There is simply a lot going on which can make listening so challenging.
The Importance of Active Listening Skills
I define active listening as suspending judgment and being fully present with another person to understand his or her experience or point of view. Deep listening involves hearing more than the words of the speaker but taps into the deeper meaning, unspoken needs, and feelings conveyed. It is something that is done with the heart as well as the mind.
As you use active listening, you create a climate of respect based on non-judgment and receptivity that allows others to express themselves fully. You make it safe for them to express not only surface opinions but also their deeper feelings and needs as well as inner experience and wisdom. Using active listening skills is how you:
· Establish deeper connections
· Build trust, rapport, and goodwill
· Bridge understanding and foster unity of vision and purpose
· Acquire vital information that makes you better at decision-making and problem-solving
· Overcome friction and conflict
· Promote learning, growth, and even healing
· Unleash motivation
· Empower others to take responsibility so they can do or be their best
Have you ever spoken to someone who was fully engaged and interested? Who made you feel you were the only person in the world at that moment?
That is the power of using active listening skills. It begins with recognizing that everyone with whom you interact wants to heard and understood. It is your willingness to offer them this gift.
The ability to listen is the heart and essence of every healthy relationship. The best and most trusted leaders, bosses, co-workers, spouses/partners, parents, helping professionals, friends, customer service reps, grocery clerks, etc. know how to listen. There are few more valuable gifts you can give the people in your life than that of a willingness and ability to listen deeply by using active listening skills.
Most of us are not good listeners
Unfortunately, most of us are not good listeners.
We tend to:
· Get distracted by random thoughts or what’s going on around us
· Interpret what others say through our own filters (biases, feelings, motives, experiences)
· Tune out because we think we already know what someone is going to say
· Think that what others have to say isn’t important
· Focus on formulating our response rather than hearing them out
· Quickly judge (agree or disagree) rather than opening ourselves to another’s point of view
· Wait impatiently for someone to finish so we can talk
· Shut down messages we don’t want to hear
· Hear the words only and not the deeper needs or meaning conveyed
· Take over the conversation by our comments and questions
· Offer solutions and “quick fixes” rather than guiding others to their own wisdom and experience
· Try to make others feel better rather than letting them own and work through their experience
What you will get out of the course
By going through this course on active listening, you’ll come away understanding the value and power of listening. More importantly, you’ll come away knowing how to listen deeply and, thereby, build much more powerful relationships and become much more effective in influencing others and empowering them for success.
I’m genuinely excited about this program because I know the power of active listening skills. I can tell you that the relationships I value most are those in which someone has listened and really heard me. It is these relationships that have not only helped me feel validated and affirmed but given me the desire and courage to improve myself or go forward to accomplish important things.
By going through this program you’ll learn the most important influencing skill in the world. That key is not being able to explain yourself more eloquently or forcefully, but rather being able to actively listen to others in a way that unleashes understanding and goodwill.
Section One: In this section, I talk about the importance of active listening skills, give you an idea of where we’re headed, what you can expect, and how we’re going to get there. I’ll also offer some tips to help you get the most out of the course. And, finally, I’m giving you a survey to assess your listening skills. You can use this to identify learning objectives and measure your progress.
Section two is making the case for using good active listening skills. Good listeners are good listeners in all aspects of their lives. I want to take a few minutes to demonstrate the value on the job as well as at home and in your personal life. I’m going to share a number of stories or case studies that demonstrate the importance and power of active listening.
Section three is about our natural tendencies when listening to others, our poor responses. I present an exercise and case-study in which we look at common ways people respond, even when our intentions are good and we want to help and support people. This section is becoming aware of what we do that is not helpful. We have to recognize old patterns that are not helpful before we’re ready to learn new, healthier responses.
Section four is about “Getting to Bedrock.” It’s made up almost entirely of examples of good active listening vs. poor listening so you can see what happens when we listen well. Active listening opens up communication in such a way that we’re able to go deeper so we can deal with real issues.
Section five is about how to develop active listening skills. We’ll look at barriers to effective listening and the importance of our assumptions in the listening process. I’ll introduce the steps of listening and give you more examples as well as some exercises and application to practice what you’re learning.
Section six is moving from active listening to problem-solving. Although I consider listening to be a foundation skill, perhaps the most important skill we can learn to improve our relationships, it is not the only skill. I put active listening in context to show you when and how to transition to other skills, particularly once you’ve done a good job of listening. In particular, I focus on a skill I call valuing which is helping people solve their own problems without taking over for them.
Finally, is the conclusion in which I summarize the program, what you have learned and offer parting thoughts. You’ll also have a chance to take the survey again and see how much you’ve improved in your active listening skills.
I’m confident you will improve and, as you do so, people will notice and appreciate the way in which you can be there for them and support them in solving their problems and also achieving their visions, what they’re most excited about in life.