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How do you actively listen?

Listening is an important skill in building and keeping relationships. It becomes particularly important when there are issues that need to resolved. Not only is it important to actually listen, you need to show others that you are. You can do this by using these three active listening techniques.
This is repeating back to the person in your own words, what your understanding is of what they were saying. By doing this you can check that you understood the message correctly and they have an opportunity to correct any errors. It also makes you concentrate on trying to understand the other person, rather than possibly blocking them or not pay full attention. You can paraphrase by starting a reply with things like:
  • So what happened was…..
  • My understanding of what your saying is that….
  • What I am hearing is…
  • So how you felt was...

Before you paraphrase you might need to clarify things. This includes asking questions to get more information or detail.

Once you have clarified and paraphrased, you now let the person know what your reactions are. By giving feedback on your thoughts and feelings about what was said, this allows for two way sharing. Feedback should be given in a non judgemental way. The aim is to help the person understand the effect they have had on you. This can also give them a chance to correct any errors or misunderstandings. It is important that feedback be given in an honest and supportive manner and should occur immediately during the discussion.

Paraphrasing, clarifying and giving feedback shows that you are actively interested in the person and are listening to them.
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