I am an avid practitioner of active listening techniques. Some people get annoyed at how diligently I practice these skills. The most important one to me is the act of listening to understand, which includes convincing the speaker that they are heard and understood and validated, before I can agree or disagree or react to their words.

I use this technique in my personal relationships, with my kids, and at work with colleagues and clients. I often refer to this technique, and espouse the benefits of it: it removes confusion and frustration, shows respect, and enables dialogue and discourse.

 

I repeat back to the speaker what I have understood their message to be in my own words, and ask for verification that I have understood them correctly. If not, the speaker has an opportunity to clarify. Then I do it again. And again, until I get it right. When the speaker is satisfied that they are clearly understood, only then do I react to what I have heard.

Over the past few months, quite a few people have asked me where they can read up this technique. For a while, I couldn't remember where I learned it! I know I didn't come up with it on my own... Was it part of business school? Six sigma training? Did I read about it somewhere? Then I remembered! I first read about and learned about it from a Dale Carnegie course I took when I was in my mid-twenties. And it was also covered by some personal development courses I took in my early 20s that relied on the teachings of Stephen Covey.

To those who are interested: Check out "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, and "Listen" by the Dale Carnegie and Associates. Also, "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey.

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