I’d like to add another skill to our stress beating arsenal. Active listening. This skill can take some time to develop, but it’s well worthwhile.
Much of the time, when someone is speaking to us, we’re scanning their words for certain keys that will trigger a response from us. Sounds more complicated than it is, but its part of something called scripting.
In scripting, you’re always projecting a bit ahead, waiting for your cue to respond or act in a manner that fits the circumstance. An example of a small script is saying “please”, “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” While these are courteous pleasantries, we also don’t give them much thought.
In a listening script, we tend to tune out what the other person is saying until there’s a direct cue for our response. People tune back into the conversation when a question arises, a pause falls, or they hear their name.
This sounds a bit rude, but it’s a common human behavior. Rather than actively processing every last word that falls on our ears, we rely on cues to maximize efficiency.
This behavior is instinctive. It can however, be replaced with active listening.
In active listening, we attend to the person attempting to communicate with us by interacting with them.
This can take the form of asking questions, asking for clarification, or encouraging the speaker to continue.
We’re trained from an early age not to interrupt a speaker. We’re also taught that an attentive silence is respectful and communicates interest.
These two points are true, up to a point. If we’re listening and attending to our speaker, well and good. However, if we’re zoning out, we need to become more active in our listening.
This helps reduce our incidence of stress by actually taking in what the conversation was about, preventing us from having to approach our former conversation partner and having to ask for a repeat.
Active listening is incredibly useful when we’re receiving instructions.
It is okay to interject with questions, requests for clarification, and pertinent observations can reduce stress by giving you a full complete understand of the social interaction you’ve had.
Important information is retained; irrelevant or less important information can then be discarded. Active listening isn’t required for every encounter we have, but you can practice it with anyone at any time. Give it a try.