Active listening is more than just listening. It includes being totally present to the other person and communicating back both verbally and non-verbally your full understanding of the content and the underlying emotions.
Tip #1: Stop any other activities
Stop reading the newspaper, turn of the TV, put your phone away, and make time without the children needing your attention.
Tip #2: Suspend your inner dialogue
If you have stuff going on in your mind, let it go to the background for the time being. You can come back to it later. This can be one of the hardest things for many people as our minds are active on their own.
Tip #3: Focus your total attention on the speaker
Look at the person speaking and don’t turn your body away. Make sure you are able to give your full attention to the other or let them know if you need to change something to be able to do this.
Tip #4: Encourage the speaker
This can be done by simple head nods, encouraging but soft eye gaze, being interested and showing that you are and giving little verbal encouragers like “wow” or “I see”.
Tip #5: Communicate what you understand
Repeating back to the speaker what you heard them said is a pivotal aspect of active listening. This is not about your spin on the story, it is simply repeating back what you heard THEM saying.
Tip #6: Paraphrasing, summarizing
In repeating back what you heard you could either summarize what you heard or paraphrase. Make sure you use mostly their words and add some of yours.
Tip #7: Rapport
Another important part of feeling listened to is being in rapport with the speaker. This can be enhanced by mirroring their body posture, matching their tone of voice and their state of emotionality.
Tip #8: Fake listening
At the beginning of practicing active listening it might seem like faking listening. The main difference is your intent. If you pretend to listen, do all the things but really you are somewhere else in your mind, most speakers will be able to tell.
Tip #9: Advantage of active listening
Many issues can be dealt with if you simply listen actively to your partner. You might be surprised to hear that you don’t need to provide a solution for everything to make someone feel better. A basic human need is to feel listened to.
Tip #10: Try it with your kids
Same as for adults, kids want to be noticed, be listened to, be taken seriously. Try it out with your children and experiment with the effect of active listening.