What Are Active Listening Skills?

Active listening skills, one of the first traits of effective interpersonal skill development is in short supply according to many of the surveys on employee happiness – comments such as “my manager doesn’t listen to me” or “I feel invisible and I’m often ignored” etc – one of the key reasons for employee dissatisfaction.

Poor listening skills are not confined to the corporate working environment – people go home after work! Poor listening skills affect a person’s home and social life too, simply getting hold of the “skill” of listening could work wonders for inter-personal relationships and can contribute to significant and positive changes in performance.

What are Active listening skills? Simply put it is a label attached to the skill of listening, skills that require awareness of the following: Body language and positioning, eye control, repeating back, open ended questioning, genuine interest etc.

Active Listening Skills (ALS) is a great place to start when developing inter-personal skills and essential for initial breakthrough contact. For transformational coaching and or therapeutic work Active Listening Skills contribute greatly but beyond ALS we should be conscious of “Clean Language” Which was pioneered by David Grove who suggested that Clean Language is a process of “facilitating the client to self-model their experience”. Much of his work is not dissimilar to that of Erickson, Bandler / Grinder and would fall into the NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) category.

Using clean language can be very powerful for change work – if you wish to transform self and or others develop your ability to pay attention to the language (both verbal and non verbal) of the person you are with and use that language only with them, be conscious of your language and aim to keep it to a minimum.

Here’s a quote from a Clean Coach: “One aspect of working ‘cleanly’ with clients I’ve come to value more and more over the years is how empowering it is for clients to have their exact words taken so seriously, to have them be the focus of so much attention. When unexpected riches emerge from exploring their words, clients increasingly value their full mind/body selves as a source of wisdom. They learn to attend to and respect their own deepest knowing.”

Powerful stuff – so how do we develop clean coaching skills?

To develop clean language skills, first by getting clear or ground yourself, remove all thoughts of “trying to change” the person with you, remove all perceptions, judgements and thoughts before you engage in conversation, then when you do, by using open ended questioning that include their words, their metaphors and or example used

WARNING – don’t mistake Clean Language with the simple act of being a parrot like and repeating back to them everything that they say!! Oh no it requires serious concentration, real attention and sound judgement (that’s where the challenge starts – determining what is sound judgement is open to debate but drawing from solid experience / common sense..)

Here is a short example (there are many on the web should you wish to explore this further)

And is there anything else about…? And what kind of … is that ….? And where is …? And whereabouts? And what happens next? And then what happens? And what happens just before …? And where does/could …. come from? And that’s … like what?

How can I improve the performance of self /others by engaging in clean language and active listening?

Firstly for self I would record your description of a problem that you are experiencing and then self coach using clean skills, if you don’t think you have sufficient “skill” to do this then find a clean coach and get clear.

If you want to make noticeable changes to / with others by using this high engaging skill then pay attention to rapport, create an environment whereby concentration can be encouraged and then explore the language use by using their language only – help them by truly connected yourself – getting clear with great questioning and applying interest in what they say and how they say it and speaking with interest when you reply.

Better inter-personal relationship results are likely to follow

  • Stage 1. Environment for rapport
  • Stage 2. Ground self
  • Stage 3. Open ended questions using clean language where possible
  • Stage 4. Confirmation using clean language close session and look forward

And – as with all “skills” build on your experience by analysing each and every session to discover areas of development and or issuing of congratulations on a job well done!

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