At a young age, a lot of our learning comes from listening to someone teach us. In the case of a child with auditory limitations, they learn by seeing, and using sign language, and with a visual limitation, they have to either hear, or feel the words in the form of Braille.
We all learn in different ways. It is up to us to learn in which way we learn best. It takes practice to "actively listen" in a correct form. When we hear a loved one speak of what's going through their minds, we've got to listen for certain clues, triggers, or notions that what the person is feeling inside is real to them. In their mind, their feelings are genuine, they are feeling what they are expressing. So how come when our loved ones start speaking to us about a certain situation, problem, or feeling, we end up trying to unconsciously fix the issue.
Have you ever really thought about what it's really like to "Listen" vs "Fixing"? It's not easy. Our human nature is to automatically empathize with someone, help them understand, or see your point of view, to fixing a situation you feel you have the answer to. We often try to interject our own beliefs, our own thoughts, feelings, or ideas of how WE think the situation can be handled better. I believe that we each, in our own way, ultimately just want to be "Heard" or just want to be "Understood".
Pay attention to the "BE" heard or "BE" understood.
"Being" an active listener takes practice. You actually have to use all your senses to actively listen. It takes you just sitting and "Being" in the moment and really listening and watching someone's body language on what's being expressed at the moment. A common phrase, often heard during an argument is, "You never understand me" or "You're not listening", "You're not hearing me", and they are probably right. We may assume we understand exactly how they are feeling, or we may assume we're hearing exactly what they're saying, but do we really?
More than likely we are "Assuming" that what "WE" hear, what "WE" believe to be true, our own perspective, is the same as their feelings, their perspective, or that the same way of solving the issue is one in the same. It is not! What's right for one person, may not be right for you, and what's right for you, may to be the right course of action for someone else. Just because we have been through a similar situation, or can relate exactly to what they're saying, doesn't mean that the way you've handled it should be the way they should handle it also.
Ultimately being an active listener requires you to just sit in the quiet with them. Sit and take in all what they are saying, expressing what they are feeling, saying what they believe to be true. We need to allow them to figure out what works best for them. Support them. Help them brainstorm what would work for them. Sometimes you being a sounding board for them is all they need, but don't Assume anything about their situation or feelings. Allow them to come to their own conclusions, for in this act, is where growth happens.
BE in the NOW with them! Happy Listening!