How-To Be A Better Listener
Because hearing and listening are 2 different things
As a therapist, I run across this problem constantly. Two or more people are talking, and one is saying something pretty damn important. The speaker is sending a message, and the listener … well, he or she is just not getting the message.
More often than not, the original speaker combats the listener’s rebuttal. They throw words back and forth, and the heart of the message is lost in the standoff.
Communication is more than a college elective.
Communication, as we all know is verbal and non-verbal. I’ll talk more on body language a bit later. For now, I’m sharing practical tips you can take to hopefully, become a better listener by the end of the day!
Tips to Master Active Listening
First, the rules of engagement go a long way. If you want to be a better listener, don’t talk. There’s a reason my grandma said God made us with two ears and one mouth. This is more easily said than done, I know. (No pun intended, lol). Not talking while someone else is talking is especially difficult when you think you know what the other person is trying to say. (*Mind reading would never be a superpower I’d choose to have. I’d ruin all my friendships – there would be no sharing – that good kind that fosters intimacy).
Second, just like in elementary school, you’ve gotta wait your turn. When you talk OVER others, or CUT RIGHT IN after they’ve finished their last word, you are essentially saying this, “I am polite enough to let you go ahead and speak. But, bottom line, I know better. My idea, my opinion, my feeling is more important that what you just shared.” Minimizing other’s emotions and thoughts isn’t going to lead to an atmosphere of collaboration. Conversation is out the window. Argument is approaching because a power struggle is bound to ensue.
Third, play the parrot. If you’re looking to truly connect with the person you’re speaking with, repeat what they have just said as a question. Follow that up with anything you would like them to clarify. For example, “So you don’t like it when I leave the back door open because you’re afraid strangers will come in and steal all the brownies? Am I not locking the door properly?” The more you ask for clarification, the more trust is built. If you’d like to go one step further, ask yourself, “Is this person making a compliant, sharing a memory or feeling, or asking for help?” Once you can identify the category, it might be easier to understand how you can best respond. A compliant may need change and action on your part. A feeling may require empathy and validation. A request for help is calling you to accept or deny the request, and possibly follow up with the plan of action.
Fourth, look for the need. At the end of the day, we are all human. Humans need love and connection. When you’re truly struggling to get to the heart of a conversation, ask yourself, “What is this person really wanting and needing?” Think basic. Most people want: safety/security; affection; reassurance; validation; empathy; comfort; control; change. Just to name a few. Understanding the root of what the person wants can help cut out the phrases you can’t seem to decipher.
I’m reading up on more counseling tips and theories as I’m gearing up for something new just right around the corner. If you’d like a little dose of more mental health tips, click HERE. Otherwise, I’m really digging my latest podcast find: Modern Love. If you’re a sap for love in any form and redemption, this is worth a listen!