All adults can benefit from active listening exercises. Whether you are a parent, mentor, teacher, employee, manager, or professional active listening will help you live a more rewarding life. It does not matter if you are communicating with a child or adult; you need to know how to listen correctly to understand the message the speaker is trying to convey.
Active listening takes practice, though. It is not a skill most people are good at naturally. Perhaps this is due to the human desire to express one’s own opinions, or because most people are so bombarded with distractions that they are unable to dedicate their undivided attention to another person.
Regardless of the reasons that active listening is difficult, it is an important skill to develop. Knowing some exercises you can use in different situations will help you hone your skills, and it will help you and the people in your life in countless ways.
What is Active Listening
Active listening goes beyond ordinary conversational skills, and it takes practice. It is a form of communication that requires you to say nothing, but when you utilize it, the other party is well aware that you understand what they are telling you.
You come across as being considerate, helpful, and genuine when you listen actively. Today, there are so many distractions that most people fall into the practice of distracted listening. They allow cell phone calls, emails, their personal life, and other factors to take them away from what another person is saying when they speak.
With active listening, you dedicate your complete attention to the other party. While they are speaking, you concentrate on what their message is. Then, you make sure you understand by getting to know their position more thoroughly by asking open-ended questions.
When you do speak, you speak from a place of understanding without judgment and without trying to push your agenda. You repeat back what you believe the other person is trying to say to make sure you are on the same page.
Active listening requires a set of skills called attentive listening skills that you acquire through practice. After learning this vital type of communication, many people notice that relationships in all aspects of their lives are improved. Work and their home life are more fulfilling, and they avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration.
When Should You Practice Active Listening Exercises
Everyone should practice active listening consistently. There are no limits to the benefits of this form of communication. Business owners and managers should regularly engage in dynamic listening exercises and practice them with employees and team members.
When You Are Communicating with Employees
Employees are the backbone of your operation. Whether you get along with them or not, you are wise to consider their thoughts and feelings. After all, these are the people on the front line. They speak to employees daily, so they know your customer’s needs and concerns first hand.
Additionally, it is essential to make these people feel appreciated. When you show how important employees are to your organization through active listening communication practices, you are setting an excellent example for them. They are also likely to have better job performance because they know you will hear them if they have concerns.
When You Are Talking to Your Boss
A lot of tension in the workplace comes from employees not understanding what their management team expects from them. These misunderstandings are avoidable when you use active listening skills. Nothing is more frustrating to a trainer or superior than telling someone the same things over and over just to have them come back and ask for directions again.
Whether you get along with your managers or not, your work life will benefit from listening to the things they are telling you. You will remember the essential details, and you will do a better job. You might even be selected for a promotion or raise when the people in charge notice how well you follow their guidance.
When You Are Talking to Clients
Speaking with clients is a great time to use active listening exercises. Really focusing on what they are telling you is not always easy. However, trying this effective form of communication will likely help you build stronger bonds and provide the service customers expect.
So, the next time you are dealing with a customer, lock your computer, so you are not paying attention to email notifications or task reminders. Listen to what the client says intently; after they finish, ask questions to be sure you understand where they are coming from or how they developed their feelings.
Then, recap what you hear. It is also a good idea to take notes while the person is speaking to you. However, you should avoid doing things like doodling or aimlessly staring at the paper as that will come across as rude and disrespectful.
When You Are Talking to Your Partner
In relationships, one of the main problems is communication. So, if you notice that your relationship is rocky, trying active listening exercises for adults might be the answer to improvement. At first, you do not both have to be on the same page.
You will benefit from this form of communication, even if the other person is not utilizing it. Of course, the results are better when both parties actively participate, but you can start by using active listening to yourself. Once the other party sees that you are making a change, they will feel better about the relationship and likely be more receptive to your needs and concerns as well.
When You Are Listening to Your Children
Children learn from their parents. So it is essential to practice active listening with children because they will learn the skill from communicating with you. When you are talking with children, it is vital to eliminate all distractions. Turn the TV off, put your phone away, and entirely focus on them. You should also have them do the same thing.
Allow the child to express their feelings to you without interrupting them. When they finish speaking, ask them questions about why they feel the way they do or about what they told you. Try to get a better understanding of their opinions by asking them questions to dig deeper.
It is essential to engage in active listening with children regularly. Set time aside each week when your child can come to you for advice; that way, they know there is a regular time when they can communicate with you openly. If you set this time aside for them, they are less likely to interrupt you when you are trying to complete essential tasks.
Remember not to judge them for what they are sharing. You do not have to be a friend to your child, but if you do not allow them to express their feelings to you, they will go to other people, leaving you in the dark about critical events in their life.
When You Are Communicating with Friends and Family
Your inner circle is an integral part of your life. They are the people who offer you support during difficult times, and they are there for you to share your joy in life. So, it is crucial to be a good listener.
You have the ability to become the person your close friends and family deserve through practicing active listening. There is probably someone that comes to mind when you want to share an important part of your life or ask for advice. That person likely utilizes active listening techniques, which is why you feel comfortable talking to them about relevant topics.
When you learn to listen to others actively, you will notice that people want to be around you and share with you more. You will become a go-to person for friends in need because you have the skills to help them in the best ways possible.
If you lack appropriate listening skills, your friends and family members will call other people. Slowly these people might pull away from you because communicating with you leaves them feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. Over time, relationships that are one-sided start to deteriorate until there is nothing left.
When you find that your relationships are at this point, practicing active listening exercises will help to improve them. These methods take practice, but if you give it time, you will see results.
When You Are Talking to Strangers
Most people do not commit a lot of time to really hearing what a stranger has to say. However, you never know who you could meet or what information they might share with you. You also do not know how your interaction with a person might impact their life. So, practicing active listening exercises is beneficial even when you are communicating with people you do not know well.
When you listen to a server, mail carrier, grocery store clerk, or other people who serve you, they feel appreciated by you. These people will be more likely to help you when you are in need because you make them feel good. The goal of active listening should be to understand the other person, their point of view, and to make them feel good, but you reap the benefits as well.
Benefits of Active Listening Exercises for Adults
As an adult, you will benefit from active listening in numerous ways, whether you are at work or home and no matter if you are communicating with your peers, friends, partner, or children. In every situation, you can improve relationships by becoming a good listener.
Many misunderstandings are the result of miscommunication. People simply do not understand what others are trying to convey if they are not able to clearly understand their message. So, active listening can help to prevent these situations from occurring as frequently.
Through attentive listening, you can save time. When you give your sole attention to someone, you can understand them more quickly. You will not have to ask the person to clarify instructions, and you will better remember the vital details you need later.
Relationships improve through communication, especially positive communication. Active listening is one of the best ways to learn more about the people in your life. It makes people feel good when they talk to someone who comes across as sincere and interested, and it makes that person more receptive to you.
Better Business Opportunities
In any business, if you listen, customers will tell you what they want and need. Many businesses fail because they are not good at providing what their customers want. So, implementing active listening in your company helps you build better relationships with clients, developing successful products, and provide services people are willing to spend their money to buy.
Active Listening Exercises for Adults In the Workplace
Regularly engaging in dynamic listening exercises for adults is essential for any successful company. If you lead a team, you can do some simple activities that will help your entire company see better results when it comes to customer service, product development, marketing, and other vital aspects of your business.
In the workplace, employees benefit from actively listening to customers, other employees, and management.
Utilizing Unconventional Methods to Practice Active Listening
Some unconventional methods can be beneficial for teaching people how to listen actively. These exercises show participants why it is crucial to eliminate distractions, not to interrupt, and what it feels like when someone is not sensitive to your position.
These might seem counterproductive, but they are beneficial because they show how practicing active listening can prevent frustration, save time, and build better relationships.
For this exercise, you will group people in groups of two or more. Give one person a passage to read and instruct everyone else to interrupt as the person reads. Instruct each person to try to finish the reading as other people interrupt them.
As each person finishes, ask them to share how they felt as they were reading, what their frustrations are, and what they learned from the exercise. Have each person in the group complete the training so that everyone has the opportunity to read the passage.
Planned distractions are an excellent way to show people how disturbances affect their ability to pay attention when someone is speaking. To do this, you will need to create several distractions while you have someone read a particular passage or tell a story. After the reader completes their story, ask the group to answer specific questions about what they heard.
After the exercise have everyone in the group share how the distractions affected their ability to pay attention. You can also ask the person who was reading how they felt as they read the passage, specifically how they felt speaking to a group of people who were distracted.
Reflecting on Negative Communication Experiences
Ask each person in a group to reflect on an experience they had when someone was not listening. These experiences could range from personal interactions with friends or family members or frustrating experiences they have had with a customer service department. Ask them to share how that action impacted them, how they felt, and the outcome of the situation.
Practice Active Listening Exercises for Adults
Another form of active listening exercises that are very effective involve practicing these skills. These activities help participants develop the skills they need to be good listeners and to reap the benefits from this form of positive communication.
It is a good idea to practice these types of communication after you engage in activities that involve distractions because you can have the participants compare the two experiences afterward. However, you can do these on their own too.
Practicing Undivided Attention
Showing employees how to give someone undivided attention is an essential aspect of teaching active listening. For this exercise, have each employee come into a room with you. Before they enter the room, ask them to clear their mind, and leave all devices outside of the room.
Then, ask them to listen as you read to them or tell them a story. Read the same story to each employee. Then, have them all sit down in the same room and answer specific questions about what you read to them. At the end of the experience, ask them what the differences were between listening with distractions and without distractions.
Showing You Are Listening Without Saying Anything
Practice showing that you are listening and understand the other person’s message without saying anything. This is extremely difficult if you are not fully paying attention. However, if you focus and practice, it should become more natural. Ways to express that you understand involve making and keeping eye contact, nodding, and turning toward the person who is speaking.
Asking Open-Ended Questions
Divide everyone into groups of two or three. Have one person speak. Then, have the other respond when they finish by asking open-ended questions. After they are done answering that question, have the listener ask another question. Instruct the participants to ask as many questions as they can without giving an opinion on what the speaker said.
When the exercise is complete, and each person has had the opportunity to share and ask questions, bring everyone back together into a group and ask them to share how they felt in each role. What were they able to learn from listening in this way, and how did they feel when they were speaking.
Reflecting on the Best Listeners
An excellent way to show people how to be a good listener is to have them reflect on the people in their life who are the best listeners. Ask them to answer questions, like who they call when they need a friend to talk to, what that person does that makes them feel comfortable, and why the way that person responds to them is beneficial to both parties.
Following Difficult Instructions
Divide people into two groups. Sit the first group down in a quiet room and give them complicated instructions to complete a task like folding a piece of paper into an origami shape. Allow time for the first group to ask questions. Give the same instructions to the second group, but do not give them the ability to ask any questions for clarification.
Then, have everyone complete the activity to the best of their ability. In the end, combine the two groups and compare the results. Theoretically, everyone should have the same results, but there will likely be deviations. Ask everyone who asked questions to raise their hand, and compare their results with the results of the people who could not clarify the instructions.
Practicing Active Listening Exercises for Adults at Home
Using active listening in your home is a great way to ease tension in your household. It will make your home life more peaceful and help the people in your life understand how much you care about them.
Set Specific Times for Sharing
When it comes to communicating with your kids or spouse, it is often a good idea to set aside some specific time for the other person to share things with you without you sharing your opinions or reacting negatively. To do this, set aside a particular time to hear them. Focus on them without distractions. Make the whole time about them.
During these sessions, you can make this time all about them and even request the same from them at a later time. However, you showing by example will help set the tone when it is your turn to share the things that are important to you.
Practice Positive Body Language
An essential part of active listening is the way the other person perceives you. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” So, practice showing the people in your home that you understand them through your body language. As they speak, look at them, nod your head to let them know you understand and keep your arms and legs in a neutral position.
Take Time Out Before You Respond
A great way to practice active listening is to delay your responses. When someone finishes their thought, wait five to ten seconds before giving your opinion. While you are waiting carefully consider where they are coming from and why they might feel the way they do.
Repeat What You Think You Heard
Instead of responding to someone immediately, repeat what you heard them say back to them to make sure you have a clear understanding. If you misunderstood, this would allow them to clarify. It will also show them that you care enough about them to get more information before assigning your opinion.
Ask Others How Well You Listen
A valuable exercise when you are developing active listening skills is learning how other people perceive you. While this is a challenging activity to do in the workplace or your daily life, your home is the perfect place to gather some great information. So, ask those you care about to tell you how well they think you listen honestly.
Remember not to get offended by what they share with you and to use the information constructively. You want the most honest response to this question because that will help you develop the best understanding of what you need to work on to master your skills.
Getting the Most Out of Active Listening Exercises for Adults
Active listening involves carefully considering other people’s feelings, and this is often difficult to do. However, it is essential if you want to get the most out of your efforts to become a better communicator. Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes is an integral part of each activity.
You should also remain positive throughout the experience. If active listening is frustrating at first because you find it difficult to focus or think of appropriate questions to help you fully understand what you hear, keep in mind that with practice, you will get better.
Consistently evaluate where you are with respect to your ability to listen effectively to others. Keep practicing active listening exercises as often as you can. You will become better the more you use what you learn.
Anything worth doing is worth working towards, and the benefits of active listening are profound. It is a skill that will serve you throughout your life. So, taking the time to develop your ability to listen actively is well worth the effort. You will notice improvements in every aspect of your personal and professional life from your improved communication.
People who were once difficult will be easier to deal with, and you will learn things about people you could never imagine. The entire experience is rewarding for you and others. Whether you desire to help yourself find more peace in your relationships, to grow closer to your children, to make your marriage work, or to take your career to the next level, these skills will give you the edge you need to be successful.