I happen to know a very senior journalist for a long time now. I noticed him on several social gatherings and one thing stayed with me. He rarely spoke about the columns he wrote unless people asked a specific question. He spent more time asking people about their life, their work and experiences. I observed some more successful journalists and found this to be a common quality. They listen more than they speak. Actually it is the demand of their profession. A journalist has to listen to all kinds of people, understand different versions and perspectives in order to file a good report. They need to get their facts right, whether they agree with the speaker or not and whether they like the speakers or not. They listen with the purpose of understanding and look for the information that is important and useful. This is active listening. A jurist also has to listen carefully to both sides in order to get the facts rights and deliver a fair judgment. There may be more professions in which the performance of people is directly linked to their ability to listen actively.
Active listening is the most important listening skill. It can be developed with practice and involves the following steps:
– Show that you are genuinely interested in understanding the key content of the message;
– Capture the feeling and emotions of speakers;
– Verify with the speaker that you got the message right. The process of seeking verification is critical as it ensures that the message is understood clearly, and in the right context.
Even if we don’t have to produce a work product like a journalist or a jurist, It might be a good idea to attempt capturing the essence of what we listen and see if we can reproduce it. This could be a way to practice active listening.