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Active Listening

Written by District ST Beth Lacey for the January issue of the Labor Press

As the year comes to an end and a new year is on the horizon. I find myself reflecting on

my successes and where I could have done better. As I evaluate 2023, I find that the times

where I was most successful, were the times that I was an active listener. The times that I made someone feel heard. The times that I listened to understand instead of listening to respond. Even when we don't agree with one another, the act of being heard can do a lot to bridge the gap of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Effective listening is a skill set that everyone can use and benefit from, especially in the labor movement, where workers are looking to be seen and heard. Here are some tips for active/effective listening that can increase communication and encourage relationship building.

1. Eye Contact-this lets the other party know that you are connected to the conversation and

actively engaged.

2.Encouragement-Making brief and gentle sounds such as "ahh" & "got it" can help someone continue telling their story.

3.Keep an open mind-Try not to go into the conversation having already decided what the other person is going to say. When we do this, we are not listening, we are just waiting to respond.

4.Listen to the words-Try to create a mental picture of what the person is telling you, allow

yourself to see the mental concept of their words, this can help people to stay grounded and

connected to the conversation.

5.Ask clarifying questions when there is a pause-You can use a pause to go back and ask

questions that help you fully understand what the speaker is saying.

6. Looping- this is when you repeat back what the person just said. This allows the other person to know that they are being heard and also allow for any correction.

7.Body Language-Watch body language, if a person seems to be closing themselves off, step back, take a break, and reset.

8. DON'T INTERRUPT- When we interrupt, we are telling the person we do not value their

words or their truth. Any meaningful communication will be lost.

9.Don't feel the need to have solutions or opinions- it is ok to actively listen and not solve the person's problems. Many of us just want to be heard.

10.Monitor your emotions-If you have an emotional reaction, slow the pace of the conversation. Pay attention to your breathing and ask for a break if necessary. The most important part of active listening is intent. When we enter into a conversation with the

intent to be strong, kind, active listeners, we are starting the conversation off on the right foot. While the above skills take practice, the desire to be heard and to hear others is a worthy endeavor that will serve to create better communication in our relationships and ultimately, will have a positive impact on our lives.

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