Listening defined - "To pay attention to someone or something in order to hear what is being said, sung, played, etc."
Often the most overlooked aspect of relationship building is the simple act of listening. But is it really that simple? The next time you are engaged in a conversation with someone, ask yourself, "am I really listening?" You might find it's harder than you realized. Are you taking in and actively listening to what the other person has to tell you? Or are you thinking about that project you need to finish by the end of the day? That email you need to respond to? What you are going to put on the table for supper tonight?
In order to improve your listening, we need to understand the difference between active and passive listening.
Passive listening - you're doing this right now. You're quietly taking in sounds or even maybe information with no outward reaction. Fingers scrolling across a keyboard, a conversation between two people near you, the heater clicking on, etc. Anything you can hear, but don't actively participate or engage in.
Active listening - being attentive to what is being said. Using verbal and nonverbal cues to respond to the other person and let them know you are listening. Paraphrasing, questioning, summarizing verbally, or nodding of the head nonverbally are a few ways to show the other person you are actively listening and engaged in the conversation.
Not that either of these listening styles are bad, but which would you prefer to have happen to you the next time you are speaking with someone?