Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Power of Active Listening

February Mentor Tip of the Month

The Power of Active Listening

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Robert McCloskey

I’m sorry…what was that quote? It’s pretty funny actually. Not to mention, quite telling. Listening is tough business. I mean REALLY listening. It’s something we all look for, but often are challenged to be able to give to others. When I practiced as a therapist, people would ask me all the time, “How do you remember that about me?” Well, every therapist knows, it’s not as magical as it appears. It is simply “active” listening. That means you are concentrating your attention completely on the other person, not the dry cleaning or your next meeting or “what I want to say back.”

Active listening is not too hard, it just takes practice. Whether you are working with your student, helping your child, speaking with your spouse or in a meeting at work, this is an incredible tool. Concentrate on what the other person is telling you. If you find yourself getting distracted, just pull yourself back into the conversation. A great tool for working your “active listening” muscle is the “recap.” All you do is “recap” what the other person just told you, in your own words.

Example: "I am sick of math. It’s stupid." You respond, "You are so tired of math right now."

Example: " This project is all wrong. The team is going to blow this." You respond, "You are really worried about the future of this project."

This sounds like elementary communication, but I can tell you, there is nothing in this world that feels quite the same as someone looking you in the eye and “getting you.” That is powerful.

Active listening will enhance your relationships, help you understand others better and, in turn, help you get more of your own communication needs met.

Good luck and have fun practicing active listening and recapping.

Maria Murphy writes a monthly Tutor/Mentor Coaching Tip for Tutor/Mentor Connection of Chicago and has been a presenter for Cabrini Connection's Tutor/Mentor Conference.

Please feel free to go to or to to discuss this article. This article is distributed throughout NE Florida mentoring organizations via Kessler Mentoring Connection.

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