Active Listening!

Active Listening is one of the key skills of Encoding and combines with feedback to maintain that all-important Communication loop.  Active Listening method operates as a group and is:

Mirroring : Reflecting back feelings. Saying what you think the other person feels.  For example, one of your team comes up to you looking angry. You say ‘You look cross – what happened?

Paraphrasing : Reflecting back content. In other words, saying what you think the other person has said.  For example, the same team member explains what happened. You say ‘So, a Project Team Member is shouting at you for some kit that there is no paperwork for’

Summarising : Reflecting back feelings and content of several statements. In other words, summing up what you think the other person felt and said in total about a situation. For example, you ask ‘How did this happen?’. They reply. You then say ‘So, a Projects person is shouting at you for kit they have say they ordered but has not been properly communicated to stores – and you’re angry about the hassle this is causing you’

Listen first and acknowledge what you hear, even if you don’t agree with it, before expressing your experience or point of view.

In order to get more of your conversation partner’s attention in tense situations, pay attention first: listen and give a brief restatement of what you have heard (especially feelings) before you express your own needs or position.

The kind of listening recommended here separates acknowledging from agreeing.

Acknowledging another person’s thoughts and feelings does not have to mean that you approve of or agree with that person’s actions or way of experiencing, or that you will do whatever someone asks.

By listening and then repeating back in your own words the essence and feeling of what you have just heard, from the speaker’s point of view, you allow the speaker to feel the satisfaction of being understood – a major human need.

Interestingly, in his book, Nonviolent Communication,  Marshall Rosenberg reported: “Studies on management negotiations demonstrate that the time required to reach conflict resolution is cut in half when each negotiator agrees, before responding, to repeat what the previous speaker had said.”

When people are upset about something and want to talk about it, their capacity to listen is greatly diminished. Trying to get your point across to a person who is trying to express a strong feeling will usually cause the other person to try even harder to get that emotion recognised.

On the other hand, once people feel that their messages and feelings have been heard, they start to relax and they have more attention available for listening.

For example, on the shop-floor a Production Manager may say to a Sales-person: “I know that you are anxious and want your clients job completed now, but we need to co-ordinate all work with the fitters and machinists and in that way we manage to serve the whole company.”

The Salesperson in this example is more likely to listen to the Production Manager than if they simply said: “I’m sorry, but you cannot have your job finished now, we need to co-ordinate all work with the fitters and machinists and in that way we manage to serve the whole company.” 

What is missing in this second version is any acknowledgment of the Salesperson’s present experience.

 The power of simple acknowledging.

 The practice of Active Listening described here ….

…still leaves you the option of agreeing or disagreeing with that person’s point of view, actions or way of experiencing.

…still leaves you with the option of saying yes or no to a request.

…still leaves you with the option of saying more about the matter being discussed.