We’re often told that we have two ears and only one mouth because we should listen twice as we speak.
Though this may sound like a cliché statement that doesn’t hold that much value, the truth is that it carries immeasurable wisdom.
Active listening is a demanded skill — Not only in the workforce but also in your day-to-day personal life.
Friends, family members, and partners demand to be heard and acknowledged.
But there’s more to it.
This post will cover the importance of listening and silence in communication and its benefits.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening consists of the effort you make to not only hear the words of your interlocutor but also understand them.
It involves listening with your five senses — Everything you can pick up is important, from that nervousness in their movements to what their eyes say.
A key part of active listening is showing the other person you are paying attention.
Otherwise, they might think you don’t care, and they’ll stop speaking altogether.
You can show this interest by nodding, asking questions without blatantly interrupting, or summarizing their words: “So X happened, and you feel Y.”
Silence is also vital in active listening.
Though it’s vital to summarize words and ask questions now and then, you should also be quiet, make eye contact, and focus on listening.
It shows you’re giving them full and unconditional attention.
The Importance of Listening and Silence in Communication
So, why is it important to listen actively to the other person?
There are three main reasons:
1) It makes them Feel Respected
When you speak, you want others to listen.
It’s only natural.
Likewise, they also want you to listen to them.
Being listened to is being acknowledged.
It means what you have to say means something, and it’s not dismissed as foolish or unimportant.
Humans are social creatures who crave connection and emotional support.
The first step toward providing these two is to listen with respect rather than judgment.
2) It Helps Communication Flow
Most Western cultures believe that silence equals lack of communication — If you sit in silence, you kill the conversation.
But nothing could be further from the truth!
Eastern countries and Asian families engage in silence during conversations more than one would think.
They see it as an act of respect and self-control.
Silence can sometimes speak louder than words, and it often does.
Reading others’ body language provides you with greater insight than words do.
3) It Helps You Connect with Your Own Thoughts
When you focus on speaking instead of what the other person has to say, debating and inner progress becomes difficult, if not impossible.
Debates and great ideas come from discussing different perspectives and reflecting on them.
But it also applies to non-transcendental conversations.
There’s always something you can learn from your interlocutor.
Keeping quiet will help you truly reflect on what the other party is saying.
Do you agree? What do you think? If they need advice, what would you say and how?
Society tends to think that the second someone finishes speaking, the other person must begin expressing themselves.
Not only is this false, but sometimes there’s no need to add anything else.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is listen and show emotional support with comments or physical affection like a hug.
Tips to Engage in Silence and Active Listening
After reflecting on the importance of listening and silence in communication, here are some tips to remember next time you engage in a meaningful conversation!
- Respect turns: It’s not only about silence. Sometimes, people shut up because they need time to think and phrase their thoughts. Don’t pressure them or interrupt while they’re still speaking!
- Clarification: Ask questions to make sure you’ve understood the information. “So X said you wouldn’t make it, and that made you feel upset, is that correct?”
- Summarization: Like the previous tip, it’s about ensuring you got the information right. “From what you’ve said, I understand you’re angry at your husband for forgetting to pick the kids up. Is that correct?“
- Eye contact: Looking into the other person’s eyes while they speak is crucial for good communication. There’s no need to hold eye contact all the time, but do look at them and nod to make them feel listened to.
- Remember details: People feel impressed and grateful when you remember tiny details of previous conversations. Actions speak louder than words, and this shows you were paying attention. So make an effort to remember names and important events.
- Stay calm when there’s silence: Redundantly, there’s nothing more uncomfortable than uncomfortable silence. Don’t sweat or make nervous movements — Remaining calm will give a sense of peace and time to reflect on what’s been said.