(6) Try “Active Listening”
Q: I think that in reporting, contacting, and consulting, the most important point is to convey it accurately in a timely manner and to be understood by the other party. But I have also heard that “active listening” is also important. What does it mean? Does it mean listening enthusiastically?
A: In order to understand the real intention of the other party, let’s think of a conversation between a mum and her daughter.
The first mum has a daughter in the third grade. Her results in mathematics are always bad; the highest marks she would get were 60, at the most 70. But this day she got 85 marks. With the test paper in her hand, she ran back home.
“Mum! I got 85 marks!” Right at that time, the mum was leaning over the washing machine, doing the laundry. Probably she thought she would look at it later. “Oh, is that so?” she replied. So the daughter put the test paper on the table and went out to play.
The second mum’s daughter is also in the third grade. Her results in mathematics are not too good, often getting just 70 marks. One day she got 85 marks. Very happy, she ran home with the paper fluttering in her hand. “Mum! I got 85 marks!” Mum was doing the laundry but paused for a while and said, “Oh, let me see.” “It is close to 100, but not yet. A girl next door always gets 100 marks.” The daughter threw her school bag and put the test paper aside and went out to play.
The third mum’s daughter is again in the third grade, and her results in mathematics are so-so. She always gets around 60 marks and sometimes 70 at the most. But one day she got 85 marks. Very happy with it, she ran home with the test paper. “Mum! I got 85 marks!” But mum is doing the laundry. She paused and said, “Oh. Show me.”
She thought that her daughter must have run home, by looking at her panting.
When her daughter called her mother out loud, she saw her sparkling eyes and noticed that she wanted to get some positive response.
“Wow, that’s great!” she said without hesitation. “Well done!” she took the paper and continued. “If you are a bit more careful, next time I am sure you will get full marks.” Her daughter grinned.
“Mum! I got 85 marks!” The same words by the daughters but the responses were all different.
The three different responses of the daughters were caused by the way the mothers listened. What is important here is the emotion behind the words. “I am happy. I am sure mum will be happy for me. I want mum to say something…” The daughter’s whole body is conveying such emotions.
The third mum was able to feel those and naturally she said, “Wow, that’s great!”
How happy the daughter was! She must have thought, “Great, I will work hard again to make mum happy for me.” The third mum’s way of listening is “active listening.”
Examples of characteristics of people who listen actively
“Active listening” is being proposed by American psychologist, Carl Rogers. The followings are the characteristics of people who actively listen.
- listen while looking at the other person’s eyes
- nod while listening
- give supportive response
- ask questions
- take notes
- repeat while listening
- listen till the end
The speaker is not just sending messages with his mouth. As the saying goes, it is written on the face. The expression, the attitude, the way of looking, the atmosphere, and the behavior, etc—the whole body tells something. It is impossible to just listen with your ears to understand what the other party wants to say. The most important thing is, “What kind of response do they want? Let’s try to listen with our entire body.