Active Listening: How to Show Someone That You Really Care

We always teach active listening when we train our mediators. Often, our trainees find out that they are not as skilled at active listening as they thought! Even though active listening seems simple, it is actually a special skill set that takes practice.

So, what is active listening? Good active listening accomplishes 5 things:

  • Shows the speaker that the listener understands their feelings and their message.
  • Lets the speaker know that their feelings are acceptable and real
  • Encourages the speaker to share more of his/her feelings
  • Builds a sense of empathy and care between the speaker and the listener
  • Makes the speaker feel heard.

Sometimes we think we are listening to people, but we aren’t actually. Here are some examples of bad habits that keep you from really listening:

  • Not paying attention. Is your mind wandering? Are you creating or responding to distractions?
  • Judging the person instead of their message. Are you concentrating on the speaker’s mannerisms, appearance, or delivery instead of what he/she is saying?
  • Are you interrupting or injecting comments? You should let the speaker talk at their own pace and find their own solution.
  • Listening only for facts (or only for feelings). You should be trying to understand the whole story.
  • Anticipating content or meaning. Are you responding before he/she finishes? Try to think with the other person instead of ahead of them. Don’t jump to conclusion or fill in gaps.
  • Giving advice, thinking for the other person, or trying to solve their problem. Just listen!
  • Thinking of your own response. Try not to focus on your own perspective.

Instead of doing those things, you can show somebody that you are actively listening to them through your words and actions.

For example: making eye contact, sitting up, facing the speaker, and moving casually helps the speaker know that you are engaged and listening.

Also, when you summarize what the speaker has told you in your own words, he/she can tell that you understand. You can also ask questions when you don’t understand something. He/she will be glad that you want to know more! Lastly, telling the speaker that their feelings are valid helps a lot. Usually, that it all a speaker needs.

In all, when somebody comes to you with a problem, it is important to listen without trying to fix their problem for them. The speaker is capable of solving their own problem! He/she probably just needs to feel heard.

Want to put your active listening skills to good use? Contact us at 865-463-6888 or to sign up to attend training and become a volunteer mediator with CMS.