Have you ever been in a situation when you were sitting down with someone having a conversation and you were trying to listen to them? All you wanted to do was butt in and tell them your story, your opinion and all the examples that match theirs? Then instead of listening to them and hearing what they had to say, you did just that?
Active listening is one of the hardest things to do because it is about the other person in the conversation. It is about what they are saying and not about how you can “one-up” them or compare their stories with your own.
Now, active listening can have some paraphrasing in it. If you are trying to understand something, you can paraphrase what they just told you so you can make sure you understood what they just said, but it is not a time for you to say, “Oh, yeah, one time, this thing just like that happened to me and…”.
You might be really surprised how hard it is to listen to your friend or co-worker without talking over them or interrupting them. I challenge you to try it. I guarantee you will fail the first few times you do it but that is okay. I want you to fail. Failing forward is the only way we learn. Keep having these conversations and each time get better at not saying anything. Really try to listen so you can hear what your friend or co-worker is talking about.
If you practice long enough you will learn more and have better communication with that person. You will also gain their trust and admiration that you are someone they can count on. Most people just want to be heard. When they are, they feel validated. Some people may not normally have the chance to offer up their ideas for improvements in the workplace and the company may find that these team members and their ideas are valuable.
The best part of active listening is when you are sitting with close friends, and they need you. You can hear their frustrations or sadness, sympathize with them and in the end, you are able to ask questions, offer support, and tell them that you are there to listen whenever they need you. They will know this to be true and trust you. They will in turn, hopefully be there for you when you need someone to listen.