“Are You Even Listening?”
If you’ve been asked this question before, chances are you’re not great at active listening. Or maybe you can name at least 10 people that you find yourself saying it to over and over. But good listening skills are important in having empathy for others, and can actually reduce stress and build self-esteem. However, with a constant stream of information coming from all angles, it’s tempting to tune out. It’s easy to get distracted by things like an incoming text, that cute dog that just walked by, or a funny Instagram story. This article will help you identify whether you’re a good listener or not, the different types of listening, and how to practice active listening in your everyday life.
How to Practice Active Listening
Active listening is a skill that takes time and practice to master, but the results can help you communicate better with your family, friends, coworkers, and even yourself. This skill not only helps you form more meaningful relationships, but active listening is also a powerful tool for self-growth. Good listeners usually use these 6 key steps to active listening during every conversation:
- Pay attention. This may seem obvious, but if you’re distracted, you can’t listen properly. Try to turn your full focus to the conversation at hand.
- Look at the speaker. Looking at who’s talking keeps your attention where it should be, instead of on what’s happening at the next table, or getting distracted by looking out the window. It also shows the other person that you are present and in the moment.
- Don’t interrupt. Again, it seems obvious, but bad listeners are constantly interrupting others. Let the other person finish their complete thought before you jump in. It shows that you are listening to their opinions, and gives you a moment to reflect before you answer. A little bit of silence gives you time to think about your response after rather than during the other person’s comments.
- Ask questions. And no, we don’t mean, “can you repeat that?” One of the best ways to be an active listener is to ask about what the other person is saying. You will understand better, plus asking questions also shows that you’re paying attention, and are invested in the conversation.
- Paraphrase and repeat. This tactic may seem awkward at first. Paraphrasing shows the other person that you were listening with attention. Then, repeating it out loud helps you better comprehend and remember the conversation.
- Withhold judgment. Often the most challenging part of active listening is not to let your own biases, and opinions interrupt your ability to understand and empathize with the person you’re talking to. Our minds are full of thoughts fighting for your attention. Learning to silence the negative feedback in your own mind is a great way to practice active listening.
Types of Active Listening
- Internal Listening: This type of listening occurs when you focus on your own thoughts and feelings. Meditations often practice internal listening by shifting your focus from the things that distract you, to what’s happening inside your mind. While internal listening is great for introspective work, it’s not a good tool for active listening around others. During a conversation, internal listening looks like strategizing what you’ll say next, rather than focusing on what the other person is saying.
- Focused Listening: Focused listening occurs when you are actively listening in a one-on-one conversation or a small group. Active listening allows you to empathize with, understand, and respond to the other people in a genuine way. Plus, you’ll likely be able to glean more from the conversation.
- Global Listening: Once you have mastered focused listening, you can try to see the conversation through a wider lens. With global listening, it helps to tap into your own intuition, and look at the larger context of the conversation. Try to understand the feelings and circumstances of the person you are talking to, viewing the situation from their shoes.
- Generative Listening: This is the most challenging type of active listening. Generative listening allows you to identify the opportunities that are created as a result of the conversation, free from judgment, bias, or anger. To practice generative listening, ask yourself where differences in opinion can become learning opportunities, and dig deeper into how you will grow from this experience. Don’t forget to have patience—both with yourself and with others—as active listening is often challenging, and takes time to perfect.
Soundscaping for Active Listening
Meditation is a powerful tool when it comes to strengthening both your inner and outer focus. While meditating may seem like a way to tune everything out, it can actually help you learn how to improve your focus and be a better communicator. Soundscaping is a type of meditation that uses sound to help draw your focus and practice mindfulness. Soundscapes can include traditional kundalini bowls and chimes, chanting, nature sounds, binaural beats, or even soft music.
You can also use soundscaping during a massage, which is a great way to deepen your relaxation and work on your internal listening. By using sound to help you focus on your own thoughts and feelings during a massage, you can intensify the positive effects of your massage. Want to try soundscaping during your next at-home massage? Book a Swedish massage with Soothe, and ask your therapist to play soft music during the session, or create your own soundscaping playlist.