5 Ways Active Listening Makes You A More Effective Writer
Imagine that you're a young writer anxiously counting the minutes until your first interview for an upcoming feature article. This is your big break, and to make sure it all goes smoothly, you spent the past three days researching and compiling a laundry list of questions.
By the looks of your prep work, everyone is bound to love your article. But one thing I urge you not to forget is this: the best journalists, writers, and storytellers are the ones who realize that active listening makes you a more effective writer. If you're too focused on what the next question is on your notepad, you won't be listening and will likely miss out on the real depth behind the story and the person who is sharing it with you.
What is active listening?
Active listening is so much more than just fully concentrating on what is being said rather than passively hearing the person who is speaking to you. It also involves being patient, understanding what the person is saying, and then remembering it (one trick to remembering is to record the conversation. That way, you don't have to take notes madly, and you can focus on listening). There are also verbal and non-verbal cues, such as:
* Eye contact
* Good posture
* Being engaged in conversation
Active listening doesn't come easy for everyone, but it is an essential skill that can be mastered. This is especially true for those of us who aspire to be more effective writers.
For example, how many times have you been in an interview with someone and the conversation goes in a completely different direction than what you anticipated? Now, all your predetermined questions are almost worthless, and you end up going home to stare at a blank computer screen all night. If you're actively listening, you can adapt (even as a rookie writer), understand the real story, and mix in the appropriate questions along the way.
And when it's time to write, you should have everything you need.
5 ways active listening makes you a more effective writer
1. Everyone is at ease
Not everyone you interview has done this before. Ask the right questions, but first put them at ease by showing that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. Let them collect their thoughts and relax. It also helps you because you're not reading off a predetermined list of questions like a robot. Follow up questions happen naturally and show engagement.
2. You learn something new
I can't tell you how many times I've gone into an interview and come out with a completely different story simply because I was willing to shut up and listen. Active listening makes you a more effective writer. You will learn something you didn't know, and your article will have more depth to it.
3. You build better relationships
Duh! People want to know they are being heard, that you empathize, and that you will get the story right. You will instantly become a trusted source for future articles, and that is paramount if you are a reporter assigned to a specific beat (crime, sports, politics, etc.).
4. You avoid misunderstandings
Just like when you get into a spat with a loved one, each person wants to know their individual concerns are being heard. If you aren't actively listening to that person, you won't realize that you were actually the one who was wrong the whole time. Active listening shows that you understand what they are saying. It keeps the conversation respectful and gives you everything you need to understand the issues pertinent to the story you are writing.
5. It's a lot easier than coming up with tons of questions
I get to know the individuals or companies I am writing about so that I can tell the best story possible. Sure, I have questions running around in my head beforehand. But I don't rely on them for a quality interview. If anything, they help supplement the conversation.
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Thanks for reading!
*STEVE GAMEL is the President & Owner of Edit This, a writing and editing services company located in Denton, TX. Steve handles anything involving the written word. Give him a call today to help give your business a clear voice.