Are you an active listener?

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Active listening: the process of sensing a sender’s signals, evaluating them accurately, and responding appropriately.

These three attributes of active listening only pertain to the receiver’s end of a communication transaction, and frequently cycle through each step during a conversation.

I find that I regularly have a problem with interrupting people during conversations that I feel very engaged in and excited about. When speaking about a topic that I am passionate about, I forget my manners and want to add in as much as I can, and will even talk over people. I don’t do this maliciously, however I think that culturally it is  acceptable and thus becomes a bad habit.

Anecdotally, I have read that people from Brazil and France see interrupting as showing interest and involvement in a conversation; whereas in Japan people would see it as very rude. Regardless of the cultural context, it is not a nice thing to interrupt people despite how involved you may be in the topic.

“I know that you are really looking forward to giving your response; however, there is no way you could know exactly what I am about to say unless you allow me to finish saying it.”

One time many years ago, I interrupted someone while getting overly excited in the moment. Their response became an instant classic and I often use it myself now. Upon interrupting the person, they stopped, and responded by saying “I know that you are really looking forward to giving your response; however, there is no way you could know exactly what I am about to say unless you allow me to finish saying it.” I valued that because I think it was a great response to a youthful person who feels that they know everything, including what people will say in a conversation, (and that simply can’t be possible!)

Further to this, an important step in the active listening process is the evaluation step. If interrupting occurs during a communication exchange, how can the receiver empathize with or organize the information? If the information does not get organized, it will be very unlikely that the message can be clarified, or that the sender can be responded to in any meaningful way.

I think that using active listening techniques require a little more time and care, but will eventually prevent confusion stemming from miscommunication and other undesirable consequences.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!

 

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