Pitfalls to Avoid
Repetition in responses – Constantly using the same response can give the impression you are on autopilot. You should also avoid your responses being statements, such as, “You’re saying …” or “You feel …” It is better to respond with questions.
Pretending to understand – It is quite possible when listening to an emotional person to get a little lost. Emotions can muddle our thoughts and words. If you get lost, speak up and ask for clarification or you may spend a great deal of time operating in ignorance or on a misconception.
Trying too hard – As much as you may want to help, and feel that you have understood every nuance of the issue, resist the temptation to offer explanations that go beyond your knowledge base or beyond the facts that are definitely known. Amateur psychologists are a dime a dozen.
Not trying hard enough – Make sure to gauge the speaker’s emotions as best you can. Missing key emotions or devaluing them may cause the speaker to clam up in frustration.
Rambling on – Keep your responses short. Remember you should be listening more than talking. Don’t mistake long-windedness for helpfulness.
Missing non-verbal messages – This is a huge mistake, for reasons already stated.
Conclusion To Active Listening
Anyone interested in improving their communication skills should understand how active listening differs from the listening they normally practice.
Remember that there are two types of listening: active listening and not really listening. Active listening is not some super-listening skill beyond the reach of mere mortals; it is a skill anyone can master if they are willing to accept their current inadequacies and make the effort required.
Active listening is also not just a skill that belongs in a business or other professional environment; it is useful for anyone who seeks to improve the quality of their communication with other people. Only when you begin to actively listen will you realize just how much you were missing previously.
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