The 12 Elements of Active Listening

We have all encountered crisis situations that could have been prevented if someone would have simply listened better. Often times people get upset purely on the fact that they don’t understand. We can all benefit from better listen to skills whether it be understanding better or simply keeping someone from getting even more upset because now they have someone that finally understands them. Listening better is a win-win situation, lets closely follow these 12 steps to active listening:

  1. Emotional Labeling: Emotional labeling shows people we are understanding their perspective by attaching a tentative label to the feelings expressed or implied by the person’s words and actions.
  2. Paraphrasing: The use of this technique is demonstrated by repeating the speakers point in their own words. The goal here is to get across what you believe to be the speaker is trying to say. As you listen, you should attempt to provide evidence of your attention by paraphrasing the speaker’s words by stating: “So what you’re saying is you believe I could’ve said what I said differently…Alright, I think I understand.”
  3. Mirroring: This is utilized by repeating only the most important concepts, or the last few words of the individual’s dialogue to gain a better understanding of their core issues and thus, being able to develop a much more effective rapport. After the person has explained that they were promised to be on this particular unit, you reply with: “You were promised to be on this unit…I understand what you’re saying.”
  4. Minimal Encouragement: These responses do not need to be lengthy, but instead should be brief, well-times vocal replies such as; “Alright” “OK” or “I see”. In this way, you can provide evidence that you are actually listening and understanding to what is being said, rather than simply hearing the words. This will help encourage the person to continue communicating with you, rather than shitting down the feeling unheard.
  5. Open-Ended Questions: This method helps you to focus on learning what the person is really thinking and feeling so that you can develop a road-map of where to go and what to further focus on in order to understand their feeling and intent. An example: “I’d like to help you in and in order to do that, I need more information on just how you feel.”
  6. Directive “I” Messaging: By using “I” messages, you portray a much more level playing field and in doing so, remove yourself from the elevated authority figure when the person may already feel that they are on a different level than you. “I” Messages should be made up of three elements, the first being the problem or situation, the second being your feelings about the issue and the third, the reason for your concern.
  7. Effective Silence: People have a conscious or even a subconscious reflex to speak and in order to fill gaps and spaces within a conversation.You can obtain a true sense of what the person is thinking and feeling by utilizing silence as a method of encouraging the person to voluntarily fill the gaps. Even the most emotionally-charged individuals find it uncomfortable to stay engaged within a one-sided argument and will eventually calm.
  8. Perception Checking: This is done by trying to understand the feelings and emotions behind the words spoken by the individual, or to tap into the root cause of the issue. There is sometimes a deeper issue that is going on behind the issue at hand and when you try to discover the deeper issues that is lurking behind the overt one. This will actually serve to satisfy an emotional need that will turn, help allow the person to trust you and open up.
  9. Clarifying: This is the process of following up to understand both the content and the context of the words or feelings expressed by the person in order to check for accuracy of understanding in order to clear up any misconceptions that may have occur during an emotionally charged conversation. An example of this would be: “Can you tell me again what you meant when you said that you don’t feel like you’re being heard by administration.”
  10. Structuring: It is sometimes necessary to create guidelines or parameters for the conversation in order for the person to feel as though there is a defined direction that the conversation is going so that there is a sense of purpose. As an example, you might say: “You mentioned that you don’t feel that this issue is in your best interest and that you’re afraid you’ll be blamed.”…Which one of these issues would you like to talk about first?
  11. Pinpointing: During confrontations, there can be so many emotionally-charged topics tat the person is dealing with internally and externally, that the issues themselves may become lost in purpose. Therefore, you may need to at times-re-direct the conversation back to the most important issues. An example would be: “I hear you saying that you’re feeling better now but I’m still seeing some tears….Is everything really ok now?”
  12. Body Language and Posturing: Physical messages or body language from a person an either validate, or discount the message we are trying to convey and the body language exhibited by you can sabotage even the best intentions. Examples of negative body language would be checking your watch, working on unrelated task, interrupting, fidgeting, sighing, taking a phone call, texting, or standing at the doorway instead of face to face while listening.

These 12 steps are a lot to take in but very easy to follow once you understand that these are just normal functions when it comes to maintaining a happy relationship with someone you just met or your spouse.

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