We can all think of situations where we found it hard to talk about something that was troubling us.
Difficult, painful or embarrassing situations which we find almost impossible to speak to someone else about. Imagine you’ve got a close friend who needs to get something difficult off their chest. How do you get them to open up?
Active listening is a way of listening which helps people talk through their problems, no matter how difficult they find it to put into words. It sounds a strange idea. We assume that when we listen, we don’t actually do anything. Well, not necessarily.
Nobody expects you to know the answers. Not knowing the answers doesn’t mean you’re not helping. You can really help by being an active listener.
With active listening, although you do some talking, you’re really just acting as a sounding board. What you say doesn’t influence what the other person has to say. It just helps them to talk. All too often, we say things which bring conversations to a halt, like ‘I know just how you feel’ or ‘Try not to worry about it.’ Although they’re meant well, they don’t encourage the person you’re speaking with to continue talking. They tend to wrap up what the other person was just saying instead. With active listening, you can avoid this.
How to be an active listener:
All of this sounds quite simple. And it is. All you’re doing is listening, and from time to time giving responses which encourage the other person to keep talking. That’s the key – get them to keep talking.