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6.1.2: Listening to Understand
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- Explain the importance of becoming an active listener and reader
- Maintain eye contact with the speaker
- Don’t interrupt
- Focus your attention on the message, not your own internal monologue
- Restate the message in your own words and ask if you understood correctly
- Ask clarifying questions to communicate interest and gain insight
When the Going Gets Tough
- Special time. To have the difficult conversation, set aside a special time when you will not be disturbed. Close the door and turn off the TV, music player, and instant messaging client.
- Don’t interrupt. Keep silence while you let the other person “speak their piece.” Make an effort to understand and digest the news without mental interruptions.
- Non-judgmental. Receive the message without judgment or criticism. Set aside your opinions, attitudes, and beliefs.
- Acceptance. Be open to the message being communicated, realizing that acceptance does not necessarily mean you agree with what is being said.
- Take turns. Wait until it is your turn to respond, then measure your response in proportion to the message that was delivered to you. Reciprocal turn-taking allows each person have their say.
- Acknowledge. Let the other person know that you have listened to the message or read it attentively.
- Understanding. Be certain that you understand what your partner is saying. If you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Restate the message in your own words.
- Keep your cool. Speak your truth without blaming. Use “I” statements (e.g., “I felt concerned when I learned that my department is going to have a layoff”) rather than “you” statements (e.g., “You want to get rid of some of our best people”).
- Pair up with a classmate and do a role-play exercise in which one person tries to deliver a message while the other person multitasks and interrupts. Then try it again while the listener practices active listening. How do the two communication experiences compare? Discuss your findings.
- Select a news article and practice “active reading” by reading the article and summarizing each of its main points in your own words. Write a letter to the editor commenting on the article—you don’t have to send it, but you may if you wish.
- In a half-hour period of time, see if you can count how many times you are interrupted. Share and compare with your classmates.