“Listen to the whispers and you won’t have to hear the screams.”
One of the reasons I enjoy the dogs in my life is because of how engaged and interested they are when we are together. Spunky seems intrigued with our chats as he sits on the floor with his outstretched paws reaching towards me. Harley’s wagging tail and occasional ‘woofs’ tell me that what I’m saying matters.
I think we humans appreciate animals because they naturally employ some of the five key elements of active listening. These elements help you ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they are saying.
1. Pay attention. Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message.
2. Show that you are listening.? Use body language and gestures to convey your attention.
3. Provide feedback. Reflect what is being said, and ask questions.
4. Defer judgment. Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said.
5. Respond Appropriately. Gain information and perspective.
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. The next time you are tempted to jump in and provide solutions immediately to prove your value, just remember the Harley and Spunky approach: don’t try to prove anything but the value you place on what the person in front of you is saying. There is nothing wrong with being active – just be an active listener.
Find more active listening tips on Mind Tools.