1. Know when to use Active Listening. Use it only when you’re free enough of your problems to feel accepting and want to help other people with their problems.
2. Know when not to use Active Listening. It won’t work when you’re feeling unaccepting of the other person — when you own the problem. Nor will it work to influence them to change some behavior you don’t accept.
3. Avoid pushing or imposing your Active Listening on the other person. Listen for clues that the other doesn’t want to talk or has finished talking.
4. Use the other listening skills: silence, acknowledgment responses, and door openers. Every response of the other person does not need feedback. Use Active Listening primarily when feelings are strong and the other person’s need to be heard is apparent.
5. When the other person needs information, give it. Just make sure you first know what the real problem is, and be sure your information is wanted by the other person. Give your information briefly and effectively. And, of course be prepared to have your ideas rejected — they might not be appropriate or helpful.
6. Don’t expect the other person to arrive at your preferred solution. Remember, Active Listening is for helping other people resolve their problems — a tool for helping them find their own solutions. Be prepared for times when no solution surfaces—the other person might not even tell you how they later solved the problem. They will know, but you won’t.
7. Don’t give up too quickly. It takes time for other people to realize you really do want to understand and that you are accepting of their problems and feelings.
8. Competence comes only with practice. You won’t become competent at Active Listening without lots of practice. Practice with your spouse/friends/children.
10. Accept that Active Listening at first will feel artificial. It undoubtedly feels more gimmicky to you than to the other person. With practice, you’ll feel more natural and less clumsy.
(The above is excerpted from the Be Your Best Participant Workbook, written by Linda Adams, CEO of Gordon Training International. Copyright 1978, 2008.)
P.S. Do you want to know where Active Listening come from?: Active Listening was originally called “Reflective Listening” and the concept was created by Carl Rogers. The term Active Listening came from Richard Farson, a research assistant for Carl Rogers. Thomas Gordon (student and friend of Carl Rogers) popularized it by incorporating the skill into a training program, specifically into the P.E.T. (Parent Effectiveness Training) program in 1962.