What Is Attentive Listening? And How To Practice It

We are all guilty of it.

We do not listen to understand, instead we listen to answer.

But if we spend a little bit of time learning what is attentive listening and some simple techniques, we can become very successful communicators.

Hearing But Not Listening

“If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.”

— Robert Baden-Powell

We spend a lot of time talking and listening in an attempt to try to communicate with each other.

However, communicating with others is not an easy thing to do and to perfect this skill takes time and practice.

Moat people think that to improve communication is to learn to speak better, but before we can do that we have to learn to listen better.

A lot of people listen but not hear. Instead, they focus on formulating an answer.

The problem with that is that you cannot formulate a meaningful answer without hearing first what is being said.

The good news is that with a willingness and a few conscious changes we can become an attentive listener.

What Is Attentive Listening?

“To listen closely and reply well is the highest perfection we are able to attain in the art of conversation.” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Attentive listening is the ability to really hear what the speaker is saying. Being able to demonstrate that you have understood the message being conveyed will encourage the speaker to speak more freely. By being able to really hear what is being said, the speaker will feel not judged and will open up more.

If I’m hones with myself, often, I catch myself not fully listening to the other person, instead after a sentence or two my mind slips into formulating my answer.

The problem with that is that I did not fully hear what my speaking partner was trying to communicate to me.

I assumed that I know what was being said and instead focused on formulating the response.

Of course, in those situations, often times my answer was not accurate or correct since we are not mind readers and the only way for us to try to understand what the other person is saying is to actually listen.

Sadly, I have notice that I am not alone in my poor habits of not fully listening to the speaker.

Ever since I started paying attention, I noticed that a lot of us do that.

It seems that we need to quickly revisit the basics and be reminded what is the purpose of communication.

The Purpose of Communication

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” — M. Scott Peck

Let assume that the main purpose of communication is to send and receive messages to each other.

Sometimes, that is not the goal.

Some people love to hear themselves talk, others prefer to be “right”.

But let’s leave those situations alone as they are not “communication”.

Also, sticking to the true purpose of communication, achieving efficiency would be an important aspect.

So, to start off with assuming that I know what is being communicated to me instead of actually attentively listening, is not a good start as far as efficiency goes.

Most likely the message will have to be repeated a few times and clarified.

I can think of situations where I would have a long conversation with someone just to realize that I misunderstood or didn’t properly hear the very first statements of the conversations.

What followed was an argument until later on we discovered that the main premises of the conversation were missed.

It’s impossible to achieve efficiency in communication without first becoming an attentive listener.

The Benefits Of Attentive Listening

“Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable — and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That’s how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities.” — Peter Nulty

  • efficiency – saving time
  • neutral and non-judgemental
  • no misunderstandings
  • open-minded to different points of view
  • people will enjoy speaking with you
  • people will feel empathy and open up more
  • people will feel respected and valued

How to Pracctice Active Listening

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”— Larry King

  1. Don’t assume you know what will be said
  2. don’t interrupt
  3. observe – pay attention to non-verbal language
  4. focus by quieting your mind
  5. show interest by non-verbal behavior and by asking questions
  6. make eye contact
  7. be patient with yourself and others
  8. learn to recognize the signs of active listening in others
  9. be present, don’t get lost in your mind
  10. put yourself in the speakers shoes and try to see things form her/his perspective
  11. repeat back key points to ensure you understood properly
  12. remember you can only change your behavior not other

nonverbal behavior of Attentive listeners:

  • leaning in
  • nodding and smiling
  • eye contact
  • showing interest by raising eyebrows
  • no interruptions

As you can see becoming an attentive listener is not that hard.

Like any skill, it will take time and practice to perfect it and it starts with the awareness that we want to become attentive listener, understanding how that will improve out ability t communicate with others and the willingness to practice until we are good

Attentive listening is one of those skills that will improve communication in our personal lives as well as in our professional world and most importantly it will make communication with others much more pleasant for both. You will be able to learn more and others will appreciate the attention and respect given them.

“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.” — Karl A. Menniger

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