In any aspect of communication, listening is an integral part of the whole process. Basically, we listen to understand and comprehend the message that the speaker is saying. But this becomes a challenge to many of us since we tend not to make use of good and effective listening. According to statistics, we listen to only about 25-50% of what we hear in a particular conversation. And at the end of the day, we forget about 46% of everything we have heard.
If you are a facilitator of a team event or activity, you need to acquire the fundamental skill of active listening. Active and effective listening is not just listening to the words and the sound that you hear when someone talks but it is more of listening to the totality of the message. Understanding the content and being able to respond appropriately shows that a person is actively listening. When listening, the attention should be focused on the speaker. We will learn the ways to develop active listening which you can apply in your facilitation role.
Barriers to Active Listening
Often times, the listener becomes distracted with something else, ending up in a perceived understanding and inappropriate response. Can you recall an experience wherein the facilitator of an event is easily distracted and sidetracked? It simply does not create a good impression.
The barriers to active listening may be within our control or not. Natural distractions such as noise and side conversations may not be within our control. But as a facilitator, you have the power to direct the group and tell them to respect each other by listening while someone is talking. Making assumptions is an obstacle in listening, too. Especially when you do facilitating, holding preconceived ideas will not make your listening effective.
Thinking of what to say next and formulating answers while the person is still talking are obstacles to active listening. Even getting involved emotionally rather than logically in a conversation will hamper effective listening. Other barriers could be boredom, thinking about personal issues, talking too much instead of listening, and hearing what you want to hear or selective listening.
Developing the Skill of Active Listening
There are three ways to develop your skill as a listener which, when fully developed, will make you an effective facilitator.
A facilitator must know how to attend physically. By attending physically, you show the speaker that you are “with” them through your body language and physical gestures. This includes facing the member squarely, maintaining good eye contact, keeping an open and inviting posture, and remaining relatively relaxed. When a member talks to you or asks you a question, use a simple nod or facial expressions to indicate that you are listening, though a nod may not necessarily mean you are completely agreeing to what was said.
Another way to develop listening skills is to attend psychologically which entails the willingness and ability to concentrate on the member who is speaking and attend to what is being said, how it is being said, what is not being said, and what feelings and emotions are being expressed or not. They say that you don’t just read between the lines but listen between the lines as well.
To attend verbally is the third method a facilitator should enhance. Non-verbal listening cues paired with verbal responses and utterances make effective listening.
Listening by Attending Verbally
One of the best ways to enhance and show active listening is to do paraphrasing or repeating back what the person said as to how you understood it. This manifests acknowledgement of what was being said as well. Asking questions also means you are listening to what the participant is saying. Giving short-spoken feedback such as “I see”, “uh-huh”, and “that’s right” to let the person feel that you are engrossed in the conversation. Every once in a while, you can also summarize or recap the length of the interaction between you and the group members. Providing reflective statements or empathy responses also help in attending verbally to the team.
The power of active listening goes a long way in your interaction with the team as a facilitator. It promotes mutual understanding and respect in each member of the group. Once your members can see that you demonstrate good listening skills, they will do the same and the whole process become smooth and successful.