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Respect and Ways
to Listen Effectively

Listening, really listening, can improve communication and build respect with others. Communication begins by listening and then indicating that you hear what the person is saying. This can be demonstrated by focus or eye contact, body language, and reflective listening.

Focus (Eye Contact)—Focus means that you are looking directly at the person speaking and not looking off to one side or continuing to do something else. You are focused on what is being said; the speaker is the center of attention. Listening attentively is essential for positive communication.

Listening Without Interrupting—Does your body acknowledge that you are listening? Use smiles, nods, and expressions of understanding to communicate to the speaker that you are listening. It is not necessary that you agree or disagree at this time. It is more important for the person speaking to know that his or her words are respected. This strengthens communication.

Reflective Listening—Reflective listening involves hearing the feelings and meanings of the speaker. It is a re-statement (in different words) of what the speaker said. You, in essence, mirror the words of the speaker and rephrase them back to the speaker, checking for accuracy of understanding. This process affirms the speaker, indicates a respect of the person, and shows that you understand the speaker's message. Through careful reflection of the speaker's words, you can clarify the message and build mutual understanding.

Through reflective listening and the careful exchange of words, we learn that other people have important feelings and opinions which we need to consider. Learning to understand the importance of all ideas, not just our own, can lead to successful resolution of problems and mutual respect.

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