Effective listening is one of the most demanding components of any communication exchange, because it involves a mental process that requires self-discipline and demands tremendous amounts of focused energy. As a life coach, my profession requires that I demonstrate a high proficiency in effective listening, and I must admit, I have to continually work at maintaining this skill. Without continued practice, it is easy to slip into old and more comfortable listening habits. The good news? Effective listening is not an innate skill but one that everyone can learn and master.
What is effective listening? Burley-Allen (1995) defines specific elements of effective listening which include (1) taking in information while remaining empathetic and nonjudgmental, (2) acknowledging the speaker in a way that invites the conversation to continue, and (3) providing encouraging feedback that carries the other person’s idea one step further. Effective listening is harder than you might think to practice, because it involves not just tuning into the other person but tuning into oneself. Have you had the chance to listen carefully to what you said and how you said it? Have you ever recorded one of your serious or passionate conversations? If you have, were you surprised in how you came across in the conversation? Try it! Next time you plan to have an important discussion, consider using effective listening techniques, record your conversation, and review the recording. The feedback may surprise you, while providing you with valuable information in self-awareness and self-reflection.
Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The Forgotten Skill (2nd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement. She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org