Not listening to others is something we are all guilty of but active listening – listening deeply to what is being said - can add enormously to the interactions with the people in our lives.
Looking back do you sometimes wish you had listened to some advice or point of view being put to you?
You heard what was being said but the need to be right or the need not to take advice from that particular person meant you did not really listen.
This is not to say that the person was any wiser or more intelligent
than you – it was just that they were probably saying something you
didn’t want to hear.
You may have made up your mind about that something anyway and just wanted to hear someone agree with you.
Can you listen calmly to someone who disagrees with your point of view or do you spend the time they are talking making up your response?
This response can sometimes be based on your anticipation of what you think they will say.
How often do you feel that the person you are talking to is not really listening?
This can bring on a real sense of frustration and can also intensify your need to be right about the subject of conversation.
But how many times are you the person who’s not really listening and as a consequence perhaps causing frustration, even resentment, and missing something important?
Improving effective listening skills can be difficult but it can also be fun and well worth the effort.
Listen to the entire thought of the speaker – this may include asking questions about the subject matter before putting your point of view.
Funnily enough this method may also help the speaker clarify to
themselves exactly what they are saying.
Allow the other person to develop their thoughts without embarrassment.
In other words try and keep ego out of the equation; that is the temptation to feel (or even say) – “you don’t know what you are talking about."
Remember what you could miss, they may have, for instance, a good idea but have not really developed it.
They may be even regretting that they said anything; but if your response is non-judgmental and open that good idea is far more likely to emerge.
Use a "gap" between what was said to you and the beginning of your response.
We tend to live at such a fast pace now that even a short gap before answering can be seen as ”strange”.
But allowing that space can help you develop a way of really absorbing what was said - active listening.
This is different than delaying an already instantly prepared response, but is meant to allow you to see if you understood what was said.
Allowing the gap may be difficult but the good news is that there are many opportunities every day to use this active listening skill.
You may not feel confident enough to practice this, for instance, on your boss’s boss, but there is always the supermarket, the gas station or even your partner or children.
Put yourself in listener’s shoes and try to see things from their point of view. Again this can be quite difficult but it can also bring about an ability to step outside your own opinions and see them more clearly.
It is likely that ego will come in here and will automatically tell you not to be “weak” but to find fault with the other point of view and be seen as the “winner”.
But this is a great opportunity to watch your "Ego" in
action and move away from old habits and opinions that may be limiting
Avoid your own story - When someone begins to tell you about a
new experience they had – perhaps a vacation - try to avoid the
temptation to relate your own “better” experience....."Ego"
Speaker – “We are just back from a vacation on “Beautiful Island”.
Listener – “Ah yes we were there many years ago when there weren’t so many tourists and it was ..........
Listener’s ego - This is a chance to show that my experience of “Beautiful Island” is better and I will then feel superior to Speaker.
Speaker’s ego – I’m not going to let Listener away with this – I’ll even exaggerate my experience of “Beautiful Island” and show how much better the place is now.
But the lost opportunity in this conversation
is a chance to share experiences, improve active listening skills and
understand how the “Beautiful Island” was viewed by someone else and perhaps discover something new about the place.
It not great news to realize that perhaps in many conversations you are not really being listened to.
In many instance you may in fact be actually “talking to the wall”.
But the way to break down this wall is to become an active listener yourself.
You know instinctively when you are being listened to – this “listener” is usually the person you go to “share your troubles”.
You know they will not be judgmental and will usually help you perhaps by not even saying too much – but by just listening.
With some practice you can become such a person, someone who actively listens with empathy, to the many people you interact with.