Are you a good listener? (That is a trick question; only others you speak with can tell you whether you are good listener.) In our current culture many of us have become far better speakers than listeners. Some listen in order to talk — listening as a way of understanding your “customer” in order to know how to respond and “pitch” your idea. That attitude blocks true and effective communication, which consists of a mutual, two-way conversation where both participants are equal, without one person dominating over the other.
Whether you are at work, with your family, or among friends, here are four ways to improve your listening skills and relate to others better.
Silence and Serenity
Sit quietly and focus on the person you are listening to and what he or she is saying. Look at the person. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Don’t judge. Don’t react.
Get Out of the Way
Take yourself out of the picture. Avoid jumping to identify with or relate to what the other person is saying — don’t make their story about you. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
Attune Your Perception and “Cup Your Ears”
Open your ears and tune in to listen to the person speaking with you. Turn down the emotional noise of your other senses, and turn up the emotional volume of your hearing. “Cup your ears” and try to listen to the unspoken words as well; the “between the lines” feelings and sentiments being conveyed.
Care, Empathize and Acknowledge What You Are Hearing
It’s more than smiling and nodding — acknowledging what you are hearing requires care and compassion. Acknowledge the specific points the other person is making. Ask questions that lead to deeper clarity and conversation. Address the specific needs of the person to whom you are listening. Care.
Exercise: Remember a time in your life when someone listened to you effectively. Examine what he or she did that made you feel heard and understood. Record your answer in your MyMLC journal.
Go deeper into this subject: Listen to the Flames | Bringing Light to the Darkest Places | Comfort My People | The Talking Donkey | How Not to Say the Wrong Thing | The Art of Communication | Why Are You Not Connecting? | Fireworks