How many times do you meet and greet people with, “How are you?” “How was your weekend?” These casual greetings have become somewhat routine, similar to the weather small talk to break the silence in an elevator. Do you really listen to the answer?

What if they replied with, “Oh, I could be better.” or “I am not doing so good.” or “Yeah, the weekend was pretty awful.” If you don’t even hear their answer, the conversation usually ends. This is no big deal if the elevator doors open and you part ways. But what if you are trying to make an impression or connect with someone? What was the point of your asking if you don’t even care to hear their reply?

Speak in such a way that others enjoy listening to you.

Listen in such a way that others love speaking to you.

In the cartoon, Lucy asks Charlie Brown a question that has surprisingly become somewhat of the norm in today’s society. People don’t really hear the answers to their questions. In fact, they have moved on and are already formulating the next point or topic in their minds that they want to articulate to their audience. The conversation becomes more one-sided with both individuals saying what they want to say and not hearing the other person’s points of view.

Rather than passively listening, individuals should express empathy and emotional IQ, especially if the answer to the common greeting is not the expected, cheery reply. “Oh, no, what’s wrong?”, “Is there anything that I can help you with?”, “What happened?” are more appropriate possible responses to the questions posed above.

Genuinely showing care and support to another person goes a long way in actually building the relationship. Networking has been the buzz word for years now, but the crux of networking is the sincerity and foundation of the actual connection. Are you only contacting someone when you need something from them?

Active listening is defined as a paraphrase reflection from the perspective of an individual in the audience. This skill communicates to the speaker that they were heard and effectively understood. It is critical for students, consultants, medical practitioners and other service providers to master this art of listening. Arguably, everyone should practice this skill of active listening, regardless of their profession or phase of life.