But don't we all listen? Yes certainly but there are different types of listening, in particular:
- Normal Listening
Here the listener is just listening to enjoy the story or argument being told - almost coasting. This is the listening we might use in a restaurant, bar, or meeting. The listener is joining in the conversation whilst sometimes half-listening, sometimes thinking about other topics, sometimes thinking about their own next comment.
- Competitive Listening
Where the listener is more interested in promoting his or her point of view instead of considering the speakerís thoughts. The listener listens, but also looks for breaks in the conversation to deliver their own point of view, perhaps even attacking any points they may not agree with.
- Active Listening
Here the listener moves onto another level. Not just enjoying the story but actively working with the speaker to understand the speakers story, how the speaker feels, what they think, and actively showing their interest and understanding through their body language, questions, responses etc.
Active listening style is a very effective way to gain a deep understanding of the speakers knowledge, beliefs, thoughts and feelings. It is used widely by counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists in their daily work, and in consultancy work it is an invaluable skill. It focuses on two elements:
1. The Atmosphere
Creating an atmosphere that makes it easy for the speaker to talk about the topic and the issues concerned. The best atmosphere in terms of physical location/environment and lack of distractions, but in particular in the behaviour of you as the listener - a behaviour of listening that:
- encourages them to talk
- shows that you are paying attention
- ensures that they realise that you are listening noting what they are saying
- helps them to say what they want to say.
2. Communications Skills
Using communication skills to steer and guide the conversation in the direction that you wish it to go, and providing the context and detail you need. This is achieved mainly through the following communication skills:
- Questions - obtaining information by the use of questions. See side menu for more on "Questioning".
- Summarising - in order to check your understanding of what they have said.
- Supporting - encouraging communication by using supporting statements:- I see. And then?
- Listen and Paraphrase - use Their Words to demonstrate that you were listening.
- Main Points - identifying the main points they make & how they differ from yours.
- Facts versus Opinion - distinguishing fact from opinion in the other personís statements.