Have you ever talked with someone who in the middle of your conversation grabbed their smart phone and started reading the screen? How did you feel?
I am guilty of being distracted like this during a conversation. You have probably done something similar as well.
But, it is important to listen. It is just as important to listen in a way that demonstrates to other people they have your total attention.
Active listening can help us ignore distractions and show we are engaged in the conversation. Active listening tells the person speaking that what they have to say matters to you. Active listening also encourages others to open up, reduces misunderstandings, helps resolve conflicts, and builds trust.
These are benefits every small group leader should want for their group!
What Is Active Listening?
There are only two states of listening when we communicate with another person:
- Actively listening
- Not really listening
Described above is an example of not really listening. The lack of focus made it easy to be distracted. It communicated to the speaker that there was little to no interest in what was being said.
Active listening is the art of listening for meaning.
For us to gain meaning from the words of another person, we need to listen in a focused and intentional way.
Be an Active Listener
There are several ways to improve your active listening skills. Here are a few of the ways to be a better active listener:
- Face the one speaking (and lean forward if seated)
- Maintain eye contact
- Minimize distractions when possible
- Pay attention to the other person’s body language, tone of voice and facial expressions for clues about their emotions
- Focus on what is said, not on what you are going to say next
- Take notes, if appropriate
- Ask questions to clarify or confirm you understand
It is easy for leaders to stop actively listening without realizing it. Leaders direct and track of many things at any given time. While trying to orchestrate everything, we can stop being present for those who want to talk with us. This will not lead to anything positive.
Practice and repeat the 7 methods above to be a better active listener when communicating with your group members. Encourage your group members to do the same with each other. Watch how the benefits start impacting the group in a positive way.
Question: What are some ways you have been a distracted or active listener? You can leave a comment by clicking here.