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What is Active Listening, and why does it matter?

Ummm, so what’s ‘active’ got to do with it? …and yes, I know you are now singing ‘What’s love got to do with it’ in your head!!!

Most of us would like to think that we’re good at listening, but truthfully active listening isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always come naturally. In his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen R. Covey advises, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

In other words, listen first before you speak. Although most of us have been told that since early childhood, the truth is we don’t naturally listen from a place of curiosity or allow information to unfold naturally. Instead, when we’re listening, we’re busy formulating a response in our mind, contradicting what someone is saying or even preparing a defence.

In order to effectively listen, (and if invited to provide insights or guidance to another), it’s important to develop the skill of actively listening.

Active listening means:

● Giving your full attention to the speaker and to the conversation – not only the words, but also noticing how it is said.

● Paying attention to tone, body language, facial expressions and even pauses in the conversation.

● Reflecting back to the speaker their own words so that they know they’re heard. This also allows them to go another layer deeper. It demonstrates to them that you care.

● Trusting your own intuition when you have a feeling that something needs to be explored further. It’s important to remember when you do have a “hit” to ask additional questions as your intuition is speaking to you.

Active listening does not include listening from a place of judgment, agenda or purpose. When listening (and responding) includes something we want the other to ‘get’, we have stopped actively listening and are in our own minds.

Can active listening be developed? Yes, it can.

1) Ask yourself—Where am I listening from? Are you listening from a place of judgment, agenda or your own beliefs? Also, notice when you’re listening if you’re already formulating a response. Taking a moment to stop and release any need you have to respond will allow you to be more present.

2) Wait to respond. Being comfortable with momentary silence will allow you to fully absorb what is being shared with you, and for the other to complete their own thoughts. Taking even a brief moment will allow for a more collaborative exchange to result.

3) Reflect back the words you hear. Don’t always assume you understand the other, or their meaning. Reflecting words back also gives them an opportunity to hear what has been said and go even deeper with their own thoughts.

4) Ask clarifying questions. If you don’t understand or if you want to know more, ask. Saying things like “Just so I’m clear...” or “I’m not sure I fully understand, can you say a little more about that...” the other will feel heard and supported – what a gift!

I invite you to implement these techniques when communicating with friends, family, work colleagues… even people you meet on the street! It will open up a level of honesty and camaraderie and I suspect they (and you) will feel more heard, seen, understood and happy as you both move throughout your day.

Active listening is not only a life skill, but also a core practice I implement when supporting my clients through challenges and with the transformation of their life. I feel so blessed to be in receipt of this knowledge and hope it provides value for you too.

If you're ready to begin the practice of active listening, I'm here. If you're ready to transform, I'm ready to help. If you'd like to do it with a partner in crime, I'm ready to be that person for you.

Amanda Trenfield

Transformation Coach


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