Are you a good listener? With a strong cultural value on being the one at the top, our conversations these days are opinion heavy rather than an exchange of ideas involving both speaking and listening. Good listening is a lost art, and that causes many people to feel frustrated, unheard, and alone.
The goal of any communication process is mutual understanding. This leads to growth, learning, and ultimately peace in this troubled world. Conversations focused primarily on the thoughts and beliefs of the speaker, without considering the experience and viewpoints of the listener, tend to drive a wedge between them.
If there’s power at the top, why become better listeners?
Developing better listening skills has many benefits. Listening reduces stress. Good listeners are more appreciated, more interesting, and get better advice from others. They have more harmonious relationships, are more patient and tolerant, solve more problems and take advantage of new opportunities more often than those who don’t listen well.
Here are 5 simple tips for developing your listening skills:
Bring your full attention to the conversation. Time is often at a premium and it’s tempting to multi-task while talking. Don’t do it. Finish what you’re doing before you begin the conversation and then give it your full attention. Pay attention to the speaker’s voice, the facial expressions, and body language. This will make what’s being said more interesting to you.
Be compassionate and respectful. Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes. Imagine what struggles they might be facing. Let them know you’re listening by using eye contact and nodding your head occasionally. Show emotion as you listen. We all have a strong desire to be heard. Set the stage for a two-way conversation by staying engaged.
Take a pause before replying. Most people feel nervous about the pressure to reply. Rather than listening, they’re planning what to say when the speaker finishes speaking. Breaking this habit is essential to better listening. Put your focus on what’s being said as if you’ll be tested afterwards. Then pause and think before answering. You might even ask a question which will deepen the discussion. If pausing feels uncomfortable, explain to the speaker that you’re considering what they said before answering.
Recognize the opportunity to learn something new. Be curious, interested, and non-judgmental about another’s viewpoint, even if your emotions are triggered by what they’ve said. Ask questions. Consider their opinion and notice your reaction to it. There are many mysteries and unanswered questions. Release the need to have all the answers. Relax.
Old communication habits are hard to break. Be patient and gentle with yourself as you learn new listening skills. Remember you can always pause, take a deep breath, and calmly share what you feel in the moment. If you feel uncomfortable, stay open and acknowledge it as part of the conversation. May we all become better listeners, and may our increased skill bring more peace to the world.
Laya Raznick is a certified holistic health coach guiding clients to release limiting stress patterns so they can relax and live with more inspiration, joy and ease. She can be reached at (760) 512.3399 or visit www.layaraznick.com.