How many times have you said, in frustration, “You’re not listening to me!” When we’re in a conversation with someone and we’re trying to get our point across, it can be exasperating when their responses show that they are not hearing what you are saying.
This highlights the point of listening, but not just hearing what is being said, rather mastering the art of active listening.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening is a learned skill and means that you are giving your full, focused attention to the speaker so as to understand exactly what message is being sent. It also involves you showing that you are listening by nodding, not interrupting, and asking clarifying questions.
In contrast, passive listening is just hearing what is being said without the effort of understanding, which means that you aren’t likely to remember what you have heard.
Just like any “soft skill” such as time management, personal organisation or teamwork, active listening needs to be learned and practised.
Why is active listening important in University?
Your time in varsity is one of learning and absorbing vast amounts of information. Without spelling it out for you, it’s clear why we should build the skill of active listening.
Active listeners are more likely to ask questions in order to better understand what is being said. Asking for additional context or supplementary information helps to clarify a point and make it easier to grasp. It also gives your lecturers an idea of where you are in your understanding of the topic and if they need to loop back to include some more detail.
The process of learning to be an active listener tends to grow people into better problem solvers. Unpacking a topic, listening to understand, and turning it around to view it from various perspectives trains the mind to see things from different angles. It also has unexpected upsides such as encouraging better communication from people around us who know us to be good listeners. Also, letting people finish their sentences without interruption gives us the whole story and not a version of what we had in our head.
Working toward being an active listener will not only assist you while in varsity. This essential life skill will benefit all your relationships and result in fewer misunderstandings, more effective teamwork and likely improved productivity.
Indeed, developing active listening as a soft skill is going to help get you through university and smooth your path ahead.