Active Listening: The Bridge to Understanding and Connection

Apr 16, 2024 | News | 0 comments

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”; this ancient saying by Epictetus gives us the key to any healthy relationship, one that most of us seem to be lacking nowadays, and that is to listen- to understand.

What is active listening? Because listening, it doesn’t sound too difficult, now does it? Active listening is something that has an entirely different and deeper meaning than just ‘listening’. Active listening involves the utmost attention of all parties involved, and it is where one listens, not to answer or to speak, but to understand. It involves giving your full, undivided attention to the speaker’s verbal and non-verbal language. It includes being mindful of how you respond, asking questions, reflecting on what the speaker is saying and also, being empathetic towards the other as well. There is also the clear fact that this is not practiced by everyone we meet, and this can be seen through everyday interactions we have with our family, friends and peers, and the feeling we are left with after ending a certain conversation. You may be left feeling like you were “heard”, or the complete opposite, making the entire interaction a bit unfulfilling. So what is the thing that sets these conversations apart? The answer is simple, active listening skills!

There are a few very powerful skills (or tools if you may) that could be used to practice active listening, such as paraphrasing, asking open-ended questions, requesting clarification, asking probing questions, and being attuned to the other’s feelings. Using these techniques is a great way to make the other person feel truly listened to. But that is not all there is to it. Through gaining proper understanding about the other’s life, you will find yourself becoming closer with them, making your relationship stronger and more rewarding. Actively engaging with a person and the snippets of life that they share with you is a great way to foster deeper relationships. This will build emotional intimacy between the parties and create an environment that is safe and sound, built on a strong foundation of understanding. A good relationship doesn’t only matter in your personal life, but also in professional, academic and even everyday interactions, and therefore, having the key to building good relationships comes in handy for all of us. Whether its as simple as listening to a loved one’s recap of their day, or in consoling a workmate when they have made a mistake, actively being present, understanding them, and offering love and a shoulder to cry on when necessary, is the one true string holding all the complications of a relationship together. 

Of course, anything worth having is worth working for, and therefore although the initial process may be challenging, it is important as a social creature, that we build the necessary skills to foster and build more gratifying relationships by cultivating mindfulness and patience in their listening efforts, by avoiding distractions and biases when conversing, and offering practical and sensible advice when called upon to do so. However, this is not something that can be inculcated overnight, and requires daily practice and reflection- which will test you and the relationship you have with yourself as well, which brings me to state that active listening being done to foster external relationships should equally be practiced within yourself as well- in order to truly understand and love yourself in the long journey that is life.

The importance of active listening is clear. Now the only question is, what will you do with this newfound knowledge? Remember, the key to all good relationships is communication, and active listening plays a big part! Happy improving!

Written by: Rtr. Sandali Mendis

Graphic design by: Rtr. Sathmi Dinanja


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