Improve listening skills

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Louise Hay

Improve listening skills

In this article, we present some techniques that can help you improve your listening skills. Discover them and apply them in everyday life.

Last update: December 30, 2020

We all know the importance of listening and probably many of us think we do it well, but is this really the case? Can active listening be trained and improved? In this article we will reveal some secrets to hone our skill and find out all the benefits we can derive if we decide to improve listening skills, that is active listening.

What is active listening? This term was coined in 1942 by Carl Rogers, an American psychologist, during the development of some of the most important aspects of his person-centered approach. Since then the meaning of this term has been broadened and has spread considerably in psychology and philosophy of language.

Active listening is an act that we do voluntarily, so it requires our attention and our intention. It is an apprenticeship and, as such, we can acquire and perfect it. Listening is active because it requires our participation, so it implies commitment and concentration. We are therefore not referring to a passive activity.

What does it mean to listen?

Scientists Roger and Farson (1979) describe listening as a quality capable of generating changes in the lives of others, as well as trust, closeness, security and empathy. It is therefore a fundamental tool, despite the fact that science tells us that people only remember between 10 and 25% of everything they hear.

Listening means focusing on the other, on those who have decided to share their experience, their life or their problems with us. Active listening requires commitment, it is not an easy task, so we must decide when we want or can actively listen to the other.

When we put this tool into action, we must silence the voices within us. We must eliminate regrets, feelings of guilt, haste, nerves, to dedicate ourselves 100% to the act of listening.

Active listening requires understanding, but it does not require a response. Listening itself encourages the interlocutor to continue talking. Anyone who feels listened to receives an invitation to continue, a stimulus to open up and share with others what he has inside. Listening also requires patience, which can also be refined.

Improving listening skills: who are the enemies of active listening?

There are barriers that make active listening difficult. Some of the most important are:

  • Beliefs: our beliefs affect the way we perceive the words of our interlocutor. Listening to someone who does not share our ideas can generate tension and / or rejection. By practicing active listening, however, we will focus only on the other and not on ourselves.
  • Expectations: what we expect from the other or from the situation leads us to listen in one way or another. How many times have you disconnected from the conversation because you already knew how it was going to end? Why did you guess what they were going to tell you? Expectations do not allow active listening as they distract us from what is really important, which is the understanding of others.
  • Ability: each of us is born with different abilities (potential). Some are better at listening, others at communicating, others are good at both, and still others are not particularly good at either. Listening requires learning and training, so it is "like a sport" that we can all practice and improve.
  • Attitude: what is my attitude towards a conversation that doesn't interest me? In front of someone I don't want to be with but have to do? Listening is an exercise of will that requires patience and attitude.

Improve listening skills

To improve active listening skills it is important to:

  • Don't interrupt.
  • Pay attention to body and eye language.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Don't judge or interpret what we are told; just listen.
  • Perceive both the words and the gestures and movements of the speaker. Non-verbal language also communicates and must be heard.
  • Paraphrase from time to time, or summarize what we are told to make sure we understand its meaning.
  • Give feedback from time to time; that is, making affirmative head gestures such as nodding from time to time to communicate that you are still listening.
  • The three Rs rule - receive, reflect and summarize - helps us improve in this regard.

Remember that we are all born with a sense of hearing, but we need to hone the skill of listening. Listening is a gesture; moreover, it requires willpower. The benefit of feeling listened to motivates us to improve our will and learn from others.

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