Active Listening : Back to School Part 3

Yesterday we began to dig into the concepts within Evidence-Based Health Coaching by talking about Communication Styles. To continue building on that, we are going to take a look at Active Listening, today!

While it is certainly important to understand how you prefer to communicate and be able to identify how your patient prefers to communicate, if you aren’t an active listener then you will still have major struggles with communication. So often when we are “listening” to someone speak our mind is wandering to other things like our to-do list or the music we hear playing in the background or the little kid crying across the hall. We also have a tendency to “listen” only so we can respond, meaning we are focusing on what we are going to say back rather than listening to what the other person is saying.

Active listening is the skill of focusing on who is speaking, paying attention to their body language and making eye contact if you are talking face to face. You may have noticed we referred to this as a skill. While it seems as though active listening should be easy, often times we discover it is actually much harder than we imagined to actually listen when someone is speaking! You will need to practice this technique consistently until you are doing it naturally.

What do active listeners do?

  • They are sensitive to the speaker’s thoughts and feelings and demonstrate empathy when responding to the speaker
  • They avoid interrupting the speaker
  • They delay evaluation, meaning they don’t pass judgement or plan their response, until the full message is spoken
  • They stay open-minded and curious
  • They demonstrate interest and attentiveness (eye contact and body language are critical!)
  • They seek clarification when needed
  • They provide meaningful feedback

Sounds easy right? What about when you have that to-do list nagging at you from the corner of your mind, or that song is playing in the background, or that child is screaming louder across the hallway?

What do active listeners do when they are struggling with distractions?

  • They stay calm
  • They consciously assimilate the information being heard
  • They maintain focused, casual eye contact
  • They focus on body language if face-to-face and tone of voice if on the phone
  • They listen for cues of fear or ambivalence to make sure they are not missing important insight into the patient’s feelings

So, how do you improve your active listening skills? Practice, practice, practice! And, not only in professional settings! Practice with everyone!

Want to see active listening at work? Here’s a pair of humorous resources for you!

Thank you Everybody Loves Raymond for the lesson and the laughs! Challenge yourself to practice your active listening for the next few days and see how much you can improve!

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