How to Actively Listen

There are many variations of active listening available on the internet.  Over the next few days I am going to take you through the eight strategies used successfully world-wide by those involved in crisis negotiations.

Minimal Encourages

The simplest of the eight strategies, minimal encourages are verbal nods, something that we use to show another that we are listening.  Used mainly when talking on the telephone for those who we can't see, these are short words and statements designed to indicate that we are listening.

Use words rather than "um’s" and "ah’s" which can sound like grunts if not properly executed.  Words such as "yes", "I’ve got that", "that’s helpful", and "sure". If your conversation is with an angry or sad person do not use the word "okay" as what they are saying may not be okay and will garnish a reprimand.

Take care that do not interrupt the other person with a minimal encourager when they are venting, getting something off their chest.  You do not want to interrupt an angry person mid-stream as this will inflame the situation.  If you use a minimal encourager and it is not clear what you have said, the other person will stop and ask for an explanation.  Worse still you may get back "You always want to do the talking". 

A danger when we use minimal encourages too often is that our minds tend to wander off.  This is more so an issue for men.  If you are speaking with a man and they use three minimal encourages in a row it means that they are not listening to you.  Try it by asking them "what did I say" after they have used the third encourager.

Tomorrow we will examine open-ended questions.