Now that we know the five levels of listening and the stages from passive interest to total empathy, how do we get there? Just as learning to read and write takes practice, so does the art of active listening. Simply hearing someone isn’t enough—you have to be very conscious and mindful of what skills you need to develop to be a great listener.
Active listening is one of the strongest relationship-building skills you can have. It establishes respect and concern for your partner’s viewpoints and makes it easier for you to process information that’s intricate and difficult to understand through passive listening. It also eases the communication process: active listening helps you get better informed on what the other person’s needs are and therefore makes you less anxious and more open with your responses.
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Listening involves more than your sense of hearing or sustaining eye contact. Your brain needs to compute several other aspects as well. In addition to understanding the speaker, you need to take other invisible factors into account: what their intentions might be, the context of the conversation, and even nonverbal signals and variations that you can’t transcribe. At the same time, we have to push our ego out of the way so we can truly access what the other person is saying. We call this process “active” listening because it engages so many parts of our mind and makes us do something to understand what’s being communicated.