Are you listening? It is a phrase that we have heard all of our lives. Our parents may have asked us repeatedly throughout childhood… “Are you listening?” “Did you hear me?”. Chances are we were not listening and we had blocked out whatever had been said. Some may even call it selective hearing. Hearing only what may benefit us. Certainly no one missed a call for ice cream while many of us never heard “do the dishes”.
So now we are adults but are we truly listening to the people in our lives? Consider the next few questions:
- Do you often times have a conversation with someone and thought you were paying attention, only to realize once they are finished, you couldn’t remember a word that was said?
- Do you sometimes focus intently on your part of the conversation, planning each response strategically instead of listening to what is being said?
- Are you finding yourself struggling to follow intently on conversation with loved ones? And more importantly has your relationship with a partner, friend or child suffered because of communication?
Unfortunately we probably encounter all three of these on a daily basis. As technology makes our lives easier and more efficient, we are also expected to multi-task and are constantly interrupted by notifications. Which makes being in the present moment difficult and listening to another person almost impossible.
Here are some ways that you can become a better listener (which then leads into a better friend, parent, partner and employee).
Stop what you are doing.
Although we live in a multi-task world, our brain’s ability to pay attention often feels scattered. It is not able to focus on so many things at one time. By stopping what you are doing (i.e: writing an email, scrolling through social media, work task or cleaning project) we can then focus 100% of our attention on the person who is speaking.
Focus on the person. Try to set the environment to be less distracting. Turning the music down, silencing your phone, muting or turning off the t.v. Put your phone on silent. Turn your body towards the person that is speaking. Focus on the body language of the person in front of you.
- What is the person’s tone, cadence of speech, volume indicating?
- What is their body language telling you? Facial Expressions? Gestures? (Remember 90% of what we say is our body language & how we deliver a message)
Let the other person express without judgment or interruption. There will be time for you to speak. Be kind in showing them the same respect that you would like to also be shown.
- You may not agree with what is being said but make an attempt to listen and try to understand their point of view
- Acknowledge their feelings. By recognizing someone’s feelings you are helping to create a connection through this communication
Pause and then respond
- Pausing can allow you to “digest” what the other person has said (this makes us all feel good)
- Take that time to collect your response instead of planning what you are going to say while the other person is speaking
- Practice Patience
Verbal & Non-verbal
Our body language also shows the other person that we are listening and that what they have to say is important. Lean towards the person, don’t fold your arms in front of you, nod, look at the person, etc.
Listening requires more than just “hearing”. You are concentrating effort towards the person who is speaking. “Effective listening is a skill that underpins all positive human relationships. Spend some time thinking about and developing your listening skills – they are the building blocks of success”(source).
How can you be a better listener?