Relationships can be the most difficult and joyful part of your life. You cannot avoid them unless you never get out of bed in the morning and sometimes not even then. You will find yourself interfacing with others almost immediately each day.
Due to the complex multiple roles you have in your life this can be plentiful. On an average day you could be talking to your husband, wife, co-workers, children, siblings, friends, parents, our children teachers, your significant other, your boss, the grocery clerk and at the end of the day it could be a telecommunication caller.
One of the most important skills that you need in any and all of these relationships is listening. Better listening skills will allow you to create a more harmonious relationship where respect and cooperation are more likely to occur.
So ask yourself now… How well do I really listen to others? How well do I listen to myself? Can I be still and quiet enough to really listen? Or do I feel restless when there is silence and so I start talking right away? Here are some tips on developing better listening skills.
1. Listen with concern and a desire to understand. Do not pretend to be listening or give only part of your attention if you are distracted. If you need and it is possible, ask the person to wait until you can be more attentive.
2. Let the other person talk without interrupting. Avoid quickly giving advice interrupting or making assumptions as to what you think they are going to say. Pause and breathe staying present and silent until he/she is finished.
3. Do not prepare your answer while they are talking. Try to stay only in the listening mode. Once you have all the information you will be more prepared to respond.
4. Do not engage in selective listening. Listen to the words, facts and overall content of the person ™s story. Do not just pay attention to what you find interesting.
5. While you are listening observe their facial expressions, gestures, eye movement and body posture. This will give you information as to what they might be feeling about their conversation, more information to help you understand.
The second part of the skill is learning to reflect back what you heard the person saying. Paraphrasing and repeating back what you heard allows the person to know you have been listening. It keeps clarity in conversation and allows for overall better communication. This is also a skill that requires some practice. Here are a few tips.
- Try to briefly summarize what you heard them say and repeat it back to them.
- Ask them is this is what they were trying to tell you. If not, try again to summarize or ask them to repeat part of what you did not understand.
- Do not immediately respond with your belief, opinion or advise before you have clarified their position. Only give advice if they are asking for it.
- Use empathy in your response instead of being judgmental. Be neutral and clarify what you heard their feelings, thoughts or opinions are. Do not yell, argue or criticize. Ask more questions. Try asking why, when, where or who questions. This gives you more information.
- Determine what they need from you. Would they like you just to listen and say nothing, give feedback, provide advice, help them problem solve a situation. Of course, if you are talking to young children you may have to interrupt this yourself and offer what your intuition feels they need.
Whether you are in contact with your children, boss, husband, or wife or significant others these tools are valuable. For the next week or so try to exercise these new skills. Observe what happens when you listen and respond in an empathic manner instead of with advise, opinion or judgments. Make a note of the new interaction and compare it with your old way of listening or not listening. Observe their manner; are they calmer, more appreciate? What do you notice?
We all have a need to be listened to and understood. Most of us grew up with not enough of the focused attention we need. As a result we are all a little deprived, that is why so many of us want to talk and talk and talk and listening is something that we just don ™t know how to do. In fact we are uncomfortable with being quiet and still.
I suggest to you that if you practice you will benefit in many ways. All your relationships will dramatically improve. You will find that you will gain a greater ability to listen to yourself and you may find that others more readily give you time and attention. What we need from others we must be willing to give to them as well. Be patient, praise yourself for your efforts (don ™t wait for others to praise you), and watch your skill grow.