Active Listening

I consider myself a diplomatic person on almost every level. I feel as though I am able deal with most (if not all) people in a sensitive and effective way. I believe having a healthy dose of compassion along with good listening skills is the combination to understanding others.

There are so many things in the world today that require compassion and active listening skills. During this time in history with COVID-19 as well as heightened racial unrest, we are intensely listening to leaders and experts and protesters and victims and protectors of the peace. Unfortunately, many strong viewpoints directly oppose alternate viewpoints and it feels there is rarely a middle ground.

I don’t know about you, but I feel there are currently so many viewpoints to unpack that it can feel overwhelming to decide what is right or true or accurate.

There are people in my life who only listen to one side of an argument. But I don’t believe that’s really listening. It’s more like confirming or even bolstering one’s current beliefs. I would argue we should “actively” listen to as many “sides” as possible.

Active listening involves listening with all the senses. As well as giving full attention to a speaker, it is important that the “active listener” is also “seen” to be listening…so that the speaker feels heard. Interest can be conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal messages such as eye contact, nodding your head, smiling, or some other sign that is encouraging for the speaker to continue.

If active listening is a key to understanding, I sure wish we would all do a bit more of it. If we all made an effort to listen and understand our neighbors, even if their beliefs are somewhat different than our own, we might find our current situation a bit more manageable. But that’s just me.

Lisa Petty, Editor
Equal Opportunity Employment Journal

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