It’s almost the end of the spring semester, but it’s never too late to refresh a skill we can all work on: active listening. As “self help-y” as this sounds, we could all become better active listeners. If our community worked on improving this skill, we would become better friends, lovers, students, teachers and coworkers.

Active listening improves communication and the fluidity of your speech. I set a goal this semester to become an active listener. According to skillsyouneed.com, “Active listening is a skill that can be acquired and developed with practice.” Active listening is different than going through the regular motions of listening. To actively listen means to fully concentrate on what is being said rather than passively hearing.

Active listening is a true skill because it “involves listening with all senses.” Because it requires the concerted effort of all the senses, active listening is not a natural ability — it takes effort and skill. According to skillsyouneed.com, listeners are required to be engaged. “As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening — otherwise the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”

I have often found that if I am multi-tasking, the person speaking feels that I am not interested, even if I am. Their assumption relies heavily on non-verbal communication, which includes body language. In some instances body language cannot be provided, such as over a phone call. Don’t use that opportunity to zone out, ageeing with the person without knowing what the conversation is about. There are other ways to be a present. Providing simple responses such as “mhm,” “oh weird!” or “yeah” allows the other person to “feel more at ease and therefore communicate more easily, openly and honestly.”

Why does being an active listener matter? My research revealed that active listening is applicable and relevant to everyday life. Not only does it help to strengthen tight-knit relationships, it becomes extremely useful in the workplace. If you have ever read any self-help book, there always seems to be a segment that talks about becoming a better listener.

Listening is one of the main components of how to win people over in your life and keep them around. When you think of a good listener, you probably consider the people who you think are closest to you. How does this person make you feel good? It is likely that your favorite people to talk to are present, interested and give their time and respect whether or not they agree with you.

Every day I strive to be a better me. I want to be kinder, show more compassion and build genuine friendships. I’ve challenged myself to find the time to be present, interested and to manifest respect within my life, for myself and for others.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

@TheChrony

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