Have you ever walked away from a conversation and couldn’t remember what was shared? Can you remember the person’s name or what they were wearing?
This type of mindlessness is often the case because we hold too many things in our head at once. If our conversation focuses on work, our thoughts may drift to a project due soon. If the topic goes to an illness, our thoughts wander again.
Active listening means being present in the moment and focusing your attention on the speaker. When the topic is about work, acknowledge in your head that you have a project due, then return your attention to the speaker.
In order to stay engaged, offer feedback and encouragement to keep the conversation going. Your body language can send a signal that you’re listening when you face the person, nod your head, smile and look thoughtful as a way to encourage the speaker.
Now, if you want to get rid of the person (for whatever reason) be sure to do the opposite. Look away, frown, refuse to make eye contact, cross your arms and turn your body away. Your body speaks volumes and you just have to decide what message you want to convey.
Active listening is when you are focused on the other person. You’re listening, commenting, asking questions, detecting the emotion that is associated with the words and creating a safe environment for the speaker. A safe environment is one where there is a balance of sharing. You share something about yourself and the other person does too.
An imbalance occurs when one person does all the talking and shares too much information. In some cases, when it’s a friendship, this may be a healthy thing. However, in a casual conversation, too much information can make you feel uncomfortable.
The next time you are in a conversation … be there. You will remember more, engage more and the other person will walk away with the gift of your time.