Indeed, "active listening" is a skill, unfortunately, not one appreciated my most people today. Many will be polite and allow someone else to finish his or her thought, but the entire time they are deep in thought as to what they will say next. "Quiet time" is only long enough for someone to shut up. But when the shoe is on the other foot, can we be assured to receive better consideration? That's why I like to quiz my listeners with "what are YOUR thoughts on that"? In truth, we've all been caught off guard at one time or another. Here are a few pointers to help you listen more actively;
Rest - your mind. Don't jump to a conclusion of what you think the other person is going say next and suspend judgement until they have completely finished their thought.
Resist - the urge to interrupt with your own thought or point of view. Instead, when you have a salient point write a one-word note to prompt yourself to visit that idea later. We must also resist the urge to judge. Allow the talker to finish his or her statement. Scrutinize his or her thought only after that person has completely explained the idea.
Respond - with short signs of attentiveness such as; "oh", uh-huh" and "I see". Short questions, such as, "What happened next?" will show your communication partner you are listening. Also, send visual cues that you are engaged in what the person is saying by nodding your head and uncrossing your arms.
Restate - on occasion, in your own words to let the listener know you truly internalized the point they were making. Comments like "So, you're telling me your challenge with this project is..." assures both parties are on the same page.
Reiterate - what you believe to be key points of what the speaker is saying. This could even be done in the form of a question and followed up with "tell me more about that".
Reflect - on the entire message when the other is done talking. You may even want to apply what you heard to your own experiences or something that affects you. How could what you just learned HELP you?
By following these simple concepts, you can eliminate much confusion which might otherwise accompany a dialogue. Not only does this apply to interpersonal speech but to sales calls as well. By simply listening, you may uncover a new need or unstated objection that will eventually lead to the sale. When someone is talking, just be patient, hear them out and when it's your turn to speak, insist they do the same.