Good communication skills begin with a high level of self-awareness. Are you present while people speak, or are you simply waiting for your chance to respond? Instead of multitasking while listening, try active listening.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a form of mindfulness that encourages you to listen attentively while someone else speaks, absorbing and reflecting on what was said without adding judgment or advice. Active listening helps diminish bad habits, such as being stuck in your head, interrupting, or not showing respect for the speaker.

Becoming an active listener means that you have recognized some conversations are more about your speaking partner than about you. When you practice active listening, you make your partner feel heard and valued.

Why Do We Practice Active Listening?

Aside from improving our communication skills, active listening is a crucial first step toward defusing tense situations and seeking out solutions to problems. As you actively listen, you show your partner a desire to comprehend their feelings as well as offer support and empathy. 

The purpose is not to evaluate their message and offer an argument or opinion. Instead, you give your partner a platform to be heard and potentially talk through their problems.

How to Practice Active Listening

Getting out of our heads to begin active listening can be challenging. Here’s how to start:

  • Reflect: Demonstrate you’ve absorbed what’s been said by paraphrasing key points or asking relevant questions.

  • Mirror: Mirroring body language is a non-verbal way of telling a speaker, “I see you, I feel the same” – even when you don't feel the same way. Maintain eye contact, lean in, and replicate their expressions when appropriate.

  • Be Patient: Listen without waiting for a spot to interject. Avoid trying to one-up or compare situations with phrases like, “This reminds me of the time…” This is not about you.

Strive for active listening during your next meaningful conversation. You might be surprised by what you hear.