Passive listening is what we practice every day while we consider ourselves a good listener or active listener. We listen to others without letting go of our established theories & experience. Hence closing the door for new possibilities, opportunities, and betterment. So what is the difference between listening, passive listening, and active listening?
“Not everyone with a problem needs you to solve it. Sometimes all a person needs is to feel like they’ve been heard. Listening without judging can be more effective than injecting your opinions or trying to solve a problem that doesn’t have an easy answer.”
– Zero Dean
Listening is completely different from hearing. Listening requires our conscious & deliberate effort to decipher what is said to us while hearing is catching random sounds on which we don’t generally pay attention.
Passive listening is listening to others without putting aside our judgment, and our beliefs. Passive listening is when we listen to others but do not trying to understand where their thoughts are coming from. Passive listening is when we think what others are saying is of no importance to us so we don’t pay attention.
The negative impact of passive listening is broad and isn’t limited to a particular place or person or time. The higher divorce rate, emotional detachment between parents & kids, slow professional growth, wrong diagnoses in hospitals, unnecessary political scuffle, riots, and much more.
Active listening is putting aside the thought of us being right or wrong, letting go of our judgments & criticism and listening beyond what is being said. But why it is being said so, where the thoughts of the person who is speaking are coming from.
Active listening is not just about making the right noises, maintaining constant eye contact, or simply listening without interruptions. Active listening is much more than that and it requires extra effort & regular practice.
Active or genuine listening shouldn’t be limited to particular professions like doctors, psychiatrists, teachers, journalists, etc. Every single person should listen. Just because you care.
It shouldn’t be limited to particular places or times either, such as – professor lectures, boss talking about the important client, the particular person we admire, etc. We should genuinely listen to everyone who is talking to us – spouses, children, parents, friends, rivals, even strangers.
Ways To Avoid Passive Listening
Letting go of passive listening means practicing as much as active listening. But learning active listening is a constant effort that requires regular practice, not to be learned overnight. Here are some of the efficient ways to do it.
1. By practicing radical thinking
Radical listening is putting aside our disagreement, and our experience, silencing our voice of judgment, and listening to whoever speaking with an open mind. We often don’t like to listen to people with whom we don’t agree. It can narrow our view of we see the world.
By practicing radical thinking we can ask the right questions, and initiate meaningful conversation. It allows us to understand why a particular person thinks what he thinks, on what basis his/her argument is based, etc.
2. By focusing
When we put aside our own issues, dilemmas, and give undivided attention to the speaker, he/she felt important, that they matter. To maintain focus keep aside all the electronic gadgets, and try to calm your mind whenever someone is trying to talk to you.
For example – when your child comes from school and starts reminiscing about a particular incident, but you interrupt him/her by asking them to freshen up. By not focusing on what your child is saying, you discourage them from sharing in the future and make them feel less important.
3. By maintaining the human connection
In today’s age of the electronic dominant world, we spend most of our time communicating through social media, texts, and emails. We are losing our human touch by being holed up in our bubble with all kinds of electronic gadgets.
If we want to avoid passive listening, we need to go out more. Have face-to-face conversations. Meet new people but not through social media.
4. By practicing deliberate talking
Don’t wait for someone to come talk to you. If you want someone to approach you, you have to show interest first. Maybe another person is not courageous enough to initiate conversation, so don’t wait up.
Pick one or two-person to talk to every day. Choose anyone from family members to colleagues, or they can be total strangers while you ride the metro or bus.
For example – at end of the day, ask your spouse or children, or parents about their day. You can engage your colleagues in a meaningful conversation.
Deliberately start the conversation and give them your complete attention. But make sure the conversation is meaningful, not gossip. It’s a good practice if you want to be an active listener.
5. By expressive body language
Sometimes when someone is talking, we are required to stay silent till the end. In such a case try to show interest that you’re in complete tune with the speaker through appropriate body language & facial expressions, and constant eye contact.
6. By being vocal
Ask appropriate questions at the appropriate time. If the speaker is shy to talk, encourage him/her to continue with encouraging words. Present arguments if you have any. It will make the speaker appreciate proving that you’re paying attention.
Hence making conversation more lively and meaningful.
3 Key Points That Proof Active Listening Is Important
1. It helps to understand the other person side’s story
Active listening helps us to understand what facts & background the speaker’s beliefs are based on. When an active listener listens to someone, he/she put aside his/her experience to understand others better. When we put aside our own established beliefs, we open the gate for a whole new experience to enjoy with speakers.
For example, let’s assume you’re negotiating an important deal with a very prestigious client, but you find some of his facts wrong. Rather than arguing, practice radical thinking and listen to him/her openly. Then put your side forward with strong evidence. He/she will agree with you as everyone in business wants profit.
2. Others will be willing to listen to you too
Active listening helps to create an equal balance between talking & listening. If we give our complete attention to others while listening, others will be more willing to listen to us too.
3. It helps create a strong connection between human beings
Active listening helps create rapport & trust between speaker & listener. It shows that we care. It helps to connect with people from diverse communities & diverse behavior. We can stand for the social cause of others even if it does not directly concern us.
4. It helps in the betterment of people around us
When parents practice active listening their kids are more likely to emotionally close to them and tend to share thoughts more. When teachers are active listeners, it helps students get better grades & gain more valuable knowledge.
When spouses are active listeners, there will be less divorce & stress. When bosses are active listeners, the work environment becomes more productive & employees will be less depressed or stressed.
So active listening plays a great deal in the betterment of people close to us and our society.
What interrupts us from being a better listeners?
When we start living our life on certain established beliefs & rules, i.e, our comfort zone, we stop the chance of our betterment & new possibility. Here are 4 beliefs & characters which stop us from being a better listeners and made us passive listeners.
We already assume or build a certain image of the speaker in our minds. It may be because of our previous bad confrontations. Once we start assuming, we stop listening and paying attention.
2. Our fear
We refrain from listening to others because it may make us feel guilty, uncomfortable, and obliged to solve their issues. Subjects like politics, traumas, and personal problems are such issues.
We’re afraid to move out of our comfort zone, we fear any kind of changes. But most of the time speakers just want someone to listen to them without any expectations.
3. Our arrogance
We believe that we’re better & more experienced than the person who is speaking. We believe that the speaker’s beliefs, race, social status, political aspirations are beneath us. So we stop listening.
4. Obstructions from advanced technologies
We are living in the world of advanced technologies where we prefer communicating through text messages, Instagram, Twitter, and emails. But there will never be a real connection between you & your audience.
For example – you post a pic partying with your best friend, but other than your closest friends no one will bother to ask the reason for it. The reason may be your friend has presently recovered from a serious illness or he/she is going away.
So shut your mobile phone down, stop texting, messaging, and go meet with people face to face. Have an honest conversation or talk to new people even if you’re not going to each other tomorrow.
Active listening can be an important step to initiate changes. In order to bring positive changes in our society, our personal life, professional life, we need to pay attention. We need to listen to others without any reservations.
Dream of a better world where everyone listens to everyone else’s pays attention, and cares seem intrepid but not impossible. There will be fewer senseless wars, fewer broken relationships, less stress, fewer crimes, the list is never-ending.
Active listening can create a domino effect, when someone is genuinely listened to, it inspires them to listen to others hence creating a chain reaction. And to achieve all this, we need to get rid of passive listening.