Be Present- Are You Actively Listening to Others?

In today’s day and age, the philosophy is “if you don’t document it and post it on some form of social media, it did not happen”. When does this philosophy become toxic? In a world where communication has gotten so easy, why are there more and more people who claim to be lonely?  We must all remember that social media is not always reflective of real life. Social media is used by individuals to portray a certain angle of his/her life.

In the past, I’ve definitely been guilty of wanting to take pictures of my food; I may have also been guilty of answering phone calls and/or messages during gatherings. As I grow older, I really strive to put away the phone and be present during all gatherings so that I am able to hear and see everything that is going on. Yes- this does mean that all events are not documented in my life; however, the best memories live on in your head forever.

Personally, I believe I take on the role of the listener more often than the talker. I’m happy to share details of my life with individuals but I am happier and/or more comfortable listening to others. During counselling sessions and/or during undergraduate studies, active listening is a skill that is taught and learned.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is not just hearing what the other person is saying but also seeing the complete message (i.e. incorporating the non-verbal cues). The goal of active listening is to help nurture relationships, build trust, avoid misunderstandings and creating an authentic & genuine connection.

Why is active listening so hard to master? Think about all those times when you’ve tuned out and/or mentally checked out of a conversation. Ask yourselves these questions:

  1. Were you not interested in having a conversation with the other individual?
  2. Was your mind somewhere else during the conversation?
  3. Were there physical distractions during the conversation (i.e. lots of noise, a cute guy/girl walked by, a store display you really wanted to check out, etc.)?
  4. Did certain words in the conversation trigger you to tune out and/or check out?
  5. Did a certain tone of voice cause you to tune out?

Being aware of your own barriers to active listening can help you learn to overcome these barriers. In the end, you will have more effective active listening skills.

If you are practicing active listening, you’ll be able to retain more of what others tell you. Are you pleasantly surprised at what some individuals can remember what you’ve told them in the past? Being able to retain the small details is often a positive outcome of active listening. By remembering the small details from a conversation can show an individual you really do care.

Food For Thought: Now that Christmas is over, you may be thinking of New Year’s Resolutions and/or Goals for 2019. Would you like to develop more nurturing, authentic and genuine relationships? Would you like to avoid misunderstandings? Practice active listening. If you feel like you are not a very good active listener, identify what your barriers are. Learn to become aware of these barriers and how to overcome these challenges. Once you have mastered the skill of active listening, your relationships can really be strengthened in a positive way. Let’s start to have more REAL conversations. 😉


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