Become absorbed in civil listening

MIchelle Meyer, Staff Writer

My listening is not on autopilot. I put more effort into listening than speaking. The truth is, I consider listening to be a privilege. The ability to fully hear other’s perspectives, through their chosen words, is a gift of kindness from sender to receiver. A gift which nourishes my ethos, in the evolution of my own growth mindset.
My listening bridges a pathway of empathy and understanding. My listening discovers a space where listener and speaker stand together, equally rooted. This space is one of equity and reciprocity.
By listening, I become inclusive. This inclusivity extends from moment to future, consciously shaping who I am becoming, in response to what I have listened to.
Despite all the wonderful attributes of listening, being a listener is often looked at as meek, passive, lacking confidence or anxious. I wholeheartedly think if you see a listener as anything but kind, you may want to rethink your perspective.
I hope you can see yourself as a gifted listener, rise above the negative stigma attached to the listener and awaken the listener in you.
Being an active listener is not a new idea. In January of 1935, Ernest Hemingway shared this advice with young writers: “When people talk, listen completely.” And poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) said, “Our task is to listen to the news that is always arriving out of silence.”
Active listening, coined by Carl Rogers and Richard Farson in 1957, explains that listening is an important agent for individual personality change and group development. They relate three characteristics to active listening: empathy, genuineness and unconditional positive regard.
Active listening continues to become an increasingly credible aptitude. Active listening is a tool which connects multilingual communities and transcends discipline. It is an integral contribution in cultivating a better and more just society.
Now that we can see the timeless importance of active listening, we must ask ourselves individual questions: Why do I want to be an active listener? And, how do I actively listen?
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, 78% of accredited undergraduates business schools list presenting as a learning goal, while only 11% identified listening. By choosing to be an active listener, the listener joins the 11%. The active listener approach will help you shine in a space full of presenters.
Secondly, active listening is a kindness which we can give to others. It has no cost and elevates the relationship within a team. Active listening builds and maintains therapeutic alliances and bonds by showing empathy and creating opportunities for healing and growth.
By actively listening we produce a space where collective ideas can prosper. Active listening will contribute to the overall success of your organization’s initiatives.
Let’s look at the how question by acknowledging what active listening is not. Active listening is not commanding, warning, lecturing, judging, blaming, shaming, analyzing, probing, humoring or distracting. That is why I see active listening as a privilege, because to be present apart from malice is truly freeing.
Active listening is like meditating, it takes work. Many different disciples, from business to psychology, have studied, at length, the positive effects of active listeners.
I’d like to share the words of Karl Menniger, psychiatrist: “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”

Active Listening Tips

Here is list of tips, to keep in mind, if you would like to improve your active listening strategy. I hope you find as much joy in listening to others as I do.

Be Curious
Instead of grinning and bearing it, find something to be genuinely curious about. Listen to learn or to be surprised. Try to figure out what makes other people tick. – “We’re Worse at Listening Than We Realize,” Psychology Today, Clay Drinko, Ph.D., 2021

Practice Listening
Just like any other skill, if you do not practice listening, the ability to listen will degrade. – “How Would You Rate Your Listening Skills and Those of the People Around You?” NY Times, Shanon Doyne

Body Language Awareness
Face the person who is talking, include a small gesture like leaning forward or nodding. – “What is Active Listening?” United States Institute of Peace

Provide Small Rewards
Give brief verbal and non-verbal cues that show you understand the topic in an attentive and timely manner. This may motivate the speaker through positive feedback loops. – “Active Listening: The Art of Empathetic Conversation,” Positive Psychology, Jeremy Sutton

Don’t rehearse your response
ake a brief pause after they finish speaking to compose your thoughts. This will REQUIRE conscious effort. People think about 4 times faster than other people talk, so stay focused and take in as much as possible from the speaker. – “How to Become a Better Listener,” Harvard Business Review, Robin Abrahams & Boris Groysberg

Listen beyond words
Listening goes beyond hearing and committing words to memory. Develop sensitivities to the speaker’s tone, timing, speed of talking, and context. – “Active Listening: The Art of Empathetic Conversation,” Positive Psychology, Jeremy Sutton

Listen like you mean it
Include connecting questions which explore the speaker’s topic, phrases which nudge encouragement: Tell me more. What does that ideally look like to you? – “Listen Like You Mean It,” by Ximena Vengoechea,