Active Listening Techniques

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What is it?

Active listening is a technique often used by counsellors, teachers, and in some forms of conflict resolution (such as customer service). On top of this, it can also be used in the design process, when working with a client. Showing that you are actively listening can show that you have both heard and understood what is being said.

Why is it useful?

Active listening can be useful for a variety of different reasons. Usually, it is a technique that is seen commonly in those who work with vulnerable people – as it can build trust. However, many customer service and/or sales representatives will also learn active listening techniques. They’re useful for building better relationships and in order to improve your listening skills.

How to Use Active Listening Techniques

There are five key steps to listening attentively, known as SOLER.

  • Squarely face the person you are listening to.
  • Open your posture, showing you are ready to listen. Don’t fold your arms or turn away from the person you’re listening to.
  • Lean towards the person who is talking.
  • Eye contact maintained at all times.
  • Relax while listening.

Other active listening techniques include:

  • Paraphrasing – Repeating what you have just heard, but in fewer words, showing that you have listened and understand.
  • Clarifying – Particularly useful when you’re presented with vague information. Use this to identify or untangle information that has been said.
  • Perception Checking – “Let me see if I’ve got this straight.” Use this to test assumptions.
  • Summarising – Pulling together all of the key facts and feelings from the conversation, in a summary format.
  • Primary Empathy – Showing that you understand the thoughts and feelings of the speaker, and allowing them to be evaluated after being spoken by someone else.
  • Advanced Empathy – Primary empathy on a deeper level, in order to try and understand underlying feelings.

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