How to Actively Listen - 2

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.

Open-Ended Questions

In difficult conversations where you want the other person to talk more, for example those who are sad and are reluctant to speak or those who are angry and won’t stop speaking, it is imperative to allow them to talk more. Talking allows us to express ourselves, to say how we are feeling, to vent our frustration, to socialise through communication that we have been doing since the beginning of time.

Open-ended questions conveys a genuine interest in the other person, allows them the freedom to respond in a way they feel comfortable while maintaining the topic and makes the person feel that they are in control. It elicits more information and sounds less like an interrogation when asking questions.

We encourage dialogue by asking single, open-ended questions. This is by far the strongest of all the eight strategies in active listening and will gain valuable points as you build a rapport. Open-ended questions allow the talker the freedom to say what they want and get things off their chest thus reducing emotional blocks.

Once the person starts talking do not interrupt them or try ask another question until they have completely answered the last question. Take a slow breath once you think the other person has finished to ensure that this is the case. This avoids over-talking and slows the conversation to maintain an even flow.

Start each sentence with the word "What" or "How". "What happened next", How did that happen", and “Tell me more about...". Never use the word "Why" as this is a blame word. For example it is better to say “What was the reason for…” rather than “Why did you…”. You could ask “Why do you think that happened” but it is likely to gain a response of “I am not sure”.

If the person is shouting at you, allow them to do so, don’t try to interrupt them. Research tells us that we can yell at someone for between 60 & 90 seconds if they aren't reading from a script and we say nothing at all. If you say something it will just add coal to the fire.

Once the person is talking more you can then ask closed questions to speed the conversation and to confirm that you have the facts correct. For example you could say "Have I got that correct?" to confirm you have the facts accurate.

Next we will examine reflecting or mirroring.