True or false? The quality of your relationships affects the quality of your entire life.
If you said true, give yourself a gold star because you’re right.
The depth and authenticity of your relationships with your partner, your business associates, your family, your kids, your clients and every other significant person you know is the difference between a fulfilling, purposeful life…
And a life that feels disconnected and empty.
That’s why it’s well worth the time and effort it takes to deepen the emotional bonds you have with the people who matter most to you.
There are many different ways to do this but one of the most effective and most powerful methods is called active listening.
Active listening is about giving 100% of your focus and attention the person you’re talking to. This is a must-have skill for coaches, which is why it’s taught extensively in coaching programs and trainings.
But active listening skills aren’t just for coaches. It’s a crucial skill everyone needs.
Whether you’re a speaker, a teacher, thought leader, entrepreneur or stay-at-home mom, you need to cultivate the ability to listen deeply.
Here are 5 actionable methods you can use to immediately integrate active listening skills into your conversations.
Practice #1: Repeat
When you start to consciously practice active listening skills you’ll discover just how hard it is to give your complete focus and attention to someone else.
But here’s a clever hack you can try.
The next time you talk to someone, boost your concentration by repeating some of their key words and phrases in your own mind.
This is a discreet yet remarkably effective method to kick your focus up a notch.
You can also ask them an appropriate question or two to make sure you’ve understood their point.
Doing this will help you to stay in the moment, and remember what’s being said. This will help you come through with the right responses at the right time, which is a big part of active listening.
Practice #2: Clear
One of the biggest obstacles to active listening is the tendency to have a continuous “soundtrack” of our own thoughts and ideas playing in our heads.
When you’re thinking about your response or thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch, you lose track of what’s being said.
Committing to a regular meditation practice is the perfect way to clear your mind from unwanted mental chatter.
In just a few weeks, you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to call on your full focus and attention when you need to practice active listening during a conversation.
Practice #3: Watch
Studies show that over 90% of communication takes place via non-verbal cues.
What this means is body language is far more important than words when you want to achieve true understanding in a conversation.
Learn as much as you can about the different types of movement and posture, and what each one means. Read books and consider taking a short course on body language.
This will help you accurately decipher physical cues to get to the message that is actually being conveyed.
Pratice #4: Demonstrate
Part of the magic of active listening happens when the other person feels heard and understood.
So make it your job to show them that you’re listening closely and following along with what they’re saying.
You can nod your head and smile or use short comments that demonstrate your focused attention and encouragement such as “uh-huh,” “yes” and “that’s right.”
This shows you’re immersed in the conversation and interested in the other person’s message.
Practice #5: Block
If you’re easily distracted by your own thoughts, consider working in time blocks to elevate your focus.
Consciously set aside a specific amount of time when you know there’s an important conversation coming up.
Knowing that you’ve blocked out time on your schedule, frees you from secretly thinking about pending appointments, chores and tasks on your to-do list, while the other person is speaking.
You should also think about protecting yourself from unwanted external diversions by putting your phone on silent and having the conversation in a quiet, private space such as an empty room.
With the constant interruptions and distractions that we have to deal with today, the ability to hold space for other people in a way that makes them feel respected and honored is an important service.
And there’s no other better way to do this than to listen to them with your heart and soul.
Practice these tips until your active listening skills become a natural part of every conversation.
It won’t be long before you notice a significant increase in trust, love, understanding, dependability, kindness and honesty in all your crucial relationships.
It’s one of the best things you can do for your clients and the people who matter to you.
And it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.