Listening is an integral part of communication. However, many people do not know how to listen to others. Instead, while listening to another talk, they are themselves thinking of what they want to say next because they lack attentive listening skills.
You have probably engaged in conversation with someone and noticed that they were not paying attention to your thoughts. They may have cut you off while you were talking, or when they respond to you, they express their feelings instead of acknowledging yours.
Or, perhaps you are not the best at listening to others yourself. Developing attentive listening skills will help you build better relationships and avoid a lot of frustration in your personal and professional life.
What Are Attentive Listening Skills
Attentive listening, also known as active listening, involves a lot more than just hearing what someone says. This type of communication requires you to understand the other party. You have to pay attention to their body language, focus entirely on them, and then consider their position and how they developed their point of view.
How to Know If You Are Lacking Attentive Listening Skills
Many people are unaware of how bad they are at listening. They think they hear others, but instead, they are distracted. Listening takes practice. Generally, people are not great at it unless they genuinely care about another person’s feelings, or they have spent years perfecting their attentive listening skills. Sadly, most people do not even realize how bad they are at this essential component of effective communication.
You Interrupt Others While They Are Speaking
If you interrupt people in the middle of their sentences, there is no way you are actively listening to them. You have to allow someone to finish their thought because only a mind reader knows how someone else is going to finish their sentences.
If you cut someone off in the middle of their thought, you are causing them extreme frustration. So, if this is something you do frequently, practicing attentive listening will help you build healthier relationships.
You Do Not Think About the Other Person’s Situation
Listening is a lot more than hearing. When you listen to someone, you need to consider their point of view. If you are not thinking of the place they are coming from, you are probably not receiving the correct messages.
As People Are Speaking, You Are Thinking About Your Feelings
If you are thinking about your feelings when someone is speaking to you, you are not listening to them. It is impossible to fully pay attention to someone when you are thinking about other things or what you want to say. If you regularly catch yourself wanting to interrupt or interject your thoughts, you probably need to practice active listening.
You Engage In Other Activities While Listening
Attentive listening requires your undivided attention. It is what the other person deserves and what you expect when you are speaking to someone. Nothing is more frustrating when you are trying to say something important than someone paying attention to other things.
With cell phones, TV, and personal desires to get in the way, it is difficult to give someone your complete attention. There are so many demands that it is not easy to find the time to put other things away and spend one on one time with people, but if you are distracted by other things, you are not able to entirely focus on what someone is telling you.
You Interrupt Others
If you interrupt people before they finish their thought, you are not a great listener. Interrupting shows the other person you do not care as much about what they have to say as you care about yourself. It is one of the worst things you can do if you want to show people you care about them, and it is a clear sign you need to work on your listening skills. i
Other People Tell You, You Do Not Listen
Chances are if people in your life are continually telling you, you don’t listen, you need to work on it. There is something you are doing to make these people feel like you are not listening. An essential part of communicating with others is the way you make them feel, not just the words you say.
People pay attention to more than just your words when they develop feelings about your ability to understand them. So, it is important to take cues from others if you want to build the best communication with them possible.
You Do Not Remember Important Details
Not remembering a conversation is a good indication that you were not paying enough attention. Of course, there are medical conditions that affect your memory. However, if you are healthy and people frequently tell you they talked to you about something that you do not remember, you might want to try attentive listening.
Listening is similar to reading a book. You can read a page or even a chapter of a book and not remember anything you read if you were thinking about other things. Likewise, you can have a conversation with someone and not remember important details if you are not fully paying attention.
Your Relationships Are Unfulfilling
There are many reasons people have relationship troubles. However, if you are lacking meaningful relationships in your life, you might not be a good listener. There is also a chance that you are giving your time to the wrong people, but if you actively listen to the people you surround yourself with, you will know where they are in life and can choose better companions.
Through attentive listening skills, you can get to know people better. You are doing more than just scratching the surface. You are getting to know who they are and what is important to them. If you are not on the same page, you can give time to the people who are a better match for you, which will help you to feel better about yourself.
Who Should Develop Attentive Listening Skills
Everyone can benefit from being an attentive listener. However, there are some situations when actively listening is especially important. Everyone wants to get their point across. However, in some circumstances, it is more important to understand the other person.
Managers and Business Owners
Running a business is challenging. Actively listening is an excellent way to make management easier, though. Whether it comes to better understanding, your employees, or customers, active listening will help.
Growing a successful business requires you to have loyal employees and clients. So, the best way to do that is to show them how much you value them. Attentive listening is one of the best ways you can do that because it will help you to know what they want and need.
By developing this skill, you will have the information you need to make sound business decisions. You can build products and services the public wants, needs, and is willing to purchase from you.
Professionals and Employees
Employees can perform better when they learn attentive listening because they are better able to understand what their boss expects. Furthermore, when it comes to dealing with customers, this form of communicating allows them to understand what the customer needs.
Companies can benefit from teaching all employees how to actively listen to management, each other, and the customers they serve. The most successful professionals, employees, and salespeople are those who can give clients what they want and anticipate their needs without the client having to say anything.
Fostering healthy relationships with children is difficult. As a parent, you want to teach your kids everything they need to know to be successful in life. So, many parents talk to their kids all the time but fall short when it comes to knowing who their kids are or what they need to be happy.
Children want and need to express their feelings, and if they are unable to communicate with their parents, they turn to others. So, as a parent, if you are struggling with a problematic child, learning more about them can help alleviate a lot of the tension in your home.
Trying to listen to your child actively might be the key to improving your relationship. It will help you put yourself in their position and give you the tools you need to support your kids in the best way possible.
All couples reap the benefits of excellent communication. It is one of the most essential factors in a great relationship, and one of the top reasons marriages fail is poor communication. If you do not understand your partner, it is incredibly frustrating.
When someone keeps telling you what they need, and you are not receptive to that, eventually, they will call it quits. Many people do not understand that. Their focus is on what they need so much that they fail to realize their partner is unhappy.
If you and the person you are with practice attentive listening, you will see an improvement in your life together. No one wants to keep having the same conversation over and over, and that is what happens when one or both people are not attentively listening.
The best friendships are those in which both people are supportive. Bonds are more fulfilling when both people feel that the other cares deeply about their life. Through attentive listening, this is achievable. Taking the time to focus on the needs of another person almost always enriches the relationship and helps to build a strong bond that lasts years.
Attentive listening is so vital for teachers. A great teacher gets to know their students. By digging deep to understand what is going on with a student and how they learn, a teacher can tailor their methods to make the most impact.
Getting through to a difficult child is easier when the adult gets to know them. Often, there are problems in the student’s personal life that prevent them from becoming the best they can be. So, attentive listening can help give a mentor the tools they need to make a significant difference.
Benefits of Attentive Listening Skills
The benefits of attentive listening are endless. You will be a better friend, companion, parent, professional, and a happier person all around. So many misunderstandings are avoidable with proper communication.
Marriages, friendships, and business relationships are all critical to living your best life. Through attentive listening, you can improve all of your relationships. In addition to causing yourself less stress, you will help others to be happier.
Think about the best friends that you have. There is probably someone you think of immediately when you need friendly advice or a person to talk to about your problems. Chances are, this person is an attentive listener. You enjoy talking to them because they understand you.
You, too, can be the go-to companion for the people who are most important to you by practicing attentive listening. Whether you are in a marriage that is not where you wish it was or you have a demanding boss or a challenging child, better communication could be the answer to a healthier relationship.
A lot of frustration is avoidable, whether it is your frustration or someone else’s. There is nothing worse than talking to someone until you are blue in the face only for them to come back with a reply that is insensitive or something that undermines the way you feel. By attentively listening to others, you can avoid causing the people you care most about unnecessary stress.
A More Clear Understanding of Others
If you want to know the people in your life better, you need to be an attentive listener. By getting good at this form of communicating, you will learn things about people that you never knew before. You will understand what drives people, what their passions are, what is important to them, and how you can help them.
Better Business Opportunities
Attentive listening in business helps you to better relate to your customers so that you can anticipate their needs. The best real estate agents, doctors, salespeople, consultants, and professionals are excellent communicators. They know what they need to do to make the people they serve happy.
Today, marketing is all about giving customers what they want before they ask for it. The entire business world is shifting from static advertisements that push a companies message in front of people to inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is the result of active listening. In order to implement inbound marketing tactics, businesses have to pay careful attention to what their target customer wants or needs and provide it without being asked.
How to Practice Attentive Listening Skills
As with anything, you have to practice to be an effective communicator. Listening is such a huge part of communicating with others. So, it is essential to work on getting better at attentive listening consistently.
In order to give someone your undivided attention, you need to eliminate all distractions. So, turn off the TV, put your phone away, or handle any pressing business before you start a conversation.
If you are unable to eliminate all distractions, ask the person if you can speak to them later. Tell them that you want to be able to focus solely on them. Most people will gladly delay a conversation for a better time.
If the person you are speaking to is unable to wait and you cannot eliminate all distractions, be upfront with them. It is better to let someone know that your attention is going to be divided then to cause them frustration.
Additionally, it is easier to finish a task if you are focusing on it wholly. So, putting off talking to people while you are engaging in other things is a good idea anyway. That way, you are entirely focusing on each task and more effective at everything you do.
Many people do not practice attentive listening because they do not realize how it benefits them. Realize that better communication will help you in the long run. It is not only about the other person. It is just as beneficial to you as it is to them.
Attentive listening might prevent you from experiencing life-altering failures, the loss of the love of your life, or difficulties with your friends and family members. It can also help take your career to the next level by giving you a competitive edge. So, keep those things in mind to motivate yourself to be a better listener.
Pay Attention to Body Language
Listening goes beyond hearing. You have to pay attention to more than just the words a person is speaking. Body language is an excellent indication of how someone feels. If the person turns toward you with their body facing yours, they likely feel comfortable. If they cross their arms, that might show they are guarded or upset.
Take their facial expressions into consideration when they are speaking. Doing this helps you realize their genuine emotions so you can properly understand them. It requires you to go deeper and give thought to what the person is trying to communicate to you.
Use Non-Verbal Cues
Show the people you are listening to that you care by looking them in the eyes. Face them and maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. Avoid looking away or paying attention to other things while they speak.
By using non-verbal cues, you are able to convey that you care about what they are sharing with you. They are taking the time to speak with you, so give them respect by showing them appreciation.
Consider the Other Person’s Feelings
Thinking about where someone else is coming from is not always easy, but it is imperative when you are practicing attentive listening. You have to consider where that person is in their life, what their past experiences are, and who they are as a person. It is vital to think about what is most important to the other person.
Their goals and the things that matter most to them are also crucial if you want to understand their point of view. Knowing who you are listening to will help you to have a better idea of what they are telling you.
When the person finishes talking, do not go right into your thoughts. Many people are so ready to give their opinion; they do not take the time to understand what they heard the other person say. So, make sure you are on the same page by asking questions.
Even if you think you understand the message, ask questions to be sure. Or, explain to them what you think they are saying and ask if that is what they meant. If it is not, they will have the opportunity to correct your perception before you give your opinions on the matter.
Even if you do not agree with them, showing the other person you care enough to fully understand them will make them more receptive to hearing what you have to say when it is your turn to communicate. Everyone appreciates when someone else pays attention to them.
Validate the Other Person’s Opinions
When you are sure you understand, validate the other party. Let them know that you appreciate their opinion. Show them that you are open to their thoughts. If you are vehemently opposed to what they are saying, give yourself some time to think it over. Let them know that you heard them and perhaps wait to respond until you have the chance to think it over in your head.
It is also important to remember that if someone feels a certain way, they are not wrong. You develop your feelings through life experiences. You might not agree with the way someone else interprets something, but you will not change their point of view through arguing or persuasion. So your best bet is accepting their opinion and developing your views by considering that.
Do Not Interrupt
One of the most important ways to practice attentive listening is to learn how to stop interrupting. Interrupting is always rude when someone else is talking. You do not have to listen to someone who is disrespectful to you, though. However, in any situation, cutting someone off usually makes things worse.
So, even if you feel that what they are saying is incorrect, you should at least let them finish their point. If you interrupt, it is a clear sign that you are not considering their words, and this causes a lot of tension in any conversation.
Stay On Topic
When someone finishes their thought, and it is your turn to respond, stay on topic. Do not start talking about something else. When you start talking about something else, it comes across as rude and inconsiderate. Even if you were paying attention to what they were saying, they would almost certainly think that the whole time they were talking to you, you were thinking about something else.
For example, if your friend is discussing a situation they encountered during the day, do not start telling them about what you are going to cook for dinner. They will feel as though nothing they said mattered to you, and will be left feeling like their time was wasted talking to you.
Do Not Always Share Your Opinions
Sometimes attentive listening involves hearing someone else and saving your thoughts or opinions for another time. It is okay to allow someone else to express themselves else to without telling them the way you feel.
Often when you have to give your own opinions, it nullifies what the other person is trying to communicate with you. It makes them feel like the way they think is not as vital as you telling them how you feel.
Attentive listening is a skill you will develop over time. You have to make a conscious effort to engage in this activity regularly to master it. So, making a continual effort is essential. People who work at this skill for years still need to use it regularly to reap the benefits.
Once you practice eliminating distractions and genuinely paying attention to people, though, it does get easier. At first, it might be challenging not to interrupt, check your phone, stare off into space, think about what you want to say, or give in to other distractions. However, with the continual effort, you will notice that it gets easier and more comfortable.
Final Thoughts on Attentive Listening Skills
Attentive listening is one of the best things you can develop as a life skill. It can benefit every aspect of your life, help you fulfill your dreams, and assist you in becoming the best person you can be. It is well worth the time it takes to master.
Everyone in your life will notice the change in you, and people will want to be close to you when you take the time to listen to them actively. You will see that people love to talk to you. They will share things with you they have never shared before, and you will become a go-to person when they need someone to confide in.
People who are great listeners enjoy healthier relationships. They help others and themselves by considering other people’s feelings and responding accordingly. So, if you want to live a more fulfilling life, practice attentive listening with everyone, you know.