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In our active world of
communication one cannot afford to exclude the art of listening. As a leader you
must listen to your constituents in order to be effective. You need to try to
listen and correctly understand every message from each group member.
Active listening differs
from hearing. Hearing is the passive act of perceiving audible sounds with the
ear. Listening, on the other hand, is the active pursuit of understanding
what the other person is saying and feeling.
In active listening, the
receiver tries to understand what the sender is feeling and what the message
means. The listener puts his/her understanding into his/her own words and feeds
it back to the sender for verification. It is important to feed back only what
the listener feels the sender's message meant - nothing more, nothing less.
This creates an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding in which the sender
can explore the problem and determine a solution.
To listen actively is not a
simple activity. The following are important characteristics of a "good
Be present in heart, mind
and spirit with the person. Begin with a clear intention to understand the other
person before you seek to have him/her understand you because you really need to
hear what s/he has to say first. If you don't have the time, or don't want to
listen, wait until you do. Displaying the proper attitude with open body
language is important, as well as matching your tempo and tone with the tempo
and tone of the person you are listening to.
Listen carefully to
what you are going to say. Don't think of how you can interrupt. Don't think of
how to solve the problem, how to admonish, how to console, or what the person
"should" do. Refuse to be blinded by your own prejudices. Don't think
or struggle to react....just listen. Also, watch for what will never be said out
loud. Read the nonverbal signals of others.
Accept the person and
The meaning of what the
person is trying to say is in a combination of content and feeling. Accept the
person and their feelings without judgment or reservation. Don't stereotype the
person even though s/he may be very different from you. Also, accept whatever
the person's feelings may be or how they may differ from what you think a person
"should" feel. Don't be afraid that just because the feeling is
expressed the person will always feel that way. Remember that feelings are
neither right nor wrong; they just exist and can change, too.
Stay with the other person's point of view without becoming that person
Put yourself in the other
person's shoes at his/her point of reference. Don't become that person, but
understand what s/he is feeling, saying, or thinking. For clarification try
translating what the other person is saying into your own words without being
repetitious. Stay separate enough to be objective, but involved enough to help.
Trust the person
enough to keep out of it
Trust the person's ability
to handle his/her own feelings, work through them, and find solutions to his/her
own problems. Stay Objective. Refrain from offering solutions in order to keep
yourself removed. Don't intrude on what the person is trying to say.
Active listening allows the leader to understand what messages the group members are sending him/her and is also the foundation for returning feedback effectively to those members.