The Art of Listening

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Most people believe that they are good listeners. And while they may be hearing what others are saying, they may not be present enough to receive the full message. To truly listen to each other, we must give others our undivided attention and energy.   This means the following:

STOP TALKING: During discussions, sometimes we have a tendency to dominate the conversation. In order to hear the other person, take a breath and allow them to answer the questions you are asking. All too often, we ask several questions in succession without a pause to allow for an answer. Sit back and give the other individual an opportunity to participate in the conversation.

STOP THINKING: This is a hard one! When another person is talking, do not think about how you are going to respond to what they are saying. Don’t think about all the other things you have to do today. Don’t think about the argument you had earlier with your significant other or coworker. Don’t think about the upcoming meeting that you have been dreading all week. Don’t think about anything, period! Just be fully present and drink in the words of your conversation partner. Truly give them all of your attention, your energy, and your time.

PARROT: Selectively repeat back to the individual what they have said to show that you are indeed listening. This is also a helpful tool to slow down or calm the conversation if the individual is emotional. By calmly repeating their words back to them, you can help de-escalate the situation.

PARAPHRASE: Use this technique to make sure you understand what the other person is actually saying to you. What is the true heart of the conversation? By paraphrasing, or putting what the other person has said into your own words, you will demonstrate to your conversation partner that you have fully grasped their intended message. And, if for some reason you did not get the message, it will give them an opportunity to clarify.

REFLECT UNDERLYING FEELINGS: In a conflict situation, ask yourself what underlying feelings or emotions the other person may have. Are they drained, upset, angry, enthusiastic, joyful? By understanding the energy of the other individual, you will likely be more able to empathize with them.

EMPATHIZE: People want to be heard and understood. When you listen to an individual with your whole self (body, mind, and energy), you will be able to see things from their perspective, understand why they may be exhilarated or frustrated, and feel what they are feeling in that very moment. When you empathize, you are establishing a connection with this person. You understand where they are coming from, what they are feeling, and how it is affecting them.

One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel as though you are being ignored, that your opinions don’t count, or that your concerns are not important to others. When you truly listen to another individual, you are giving them a gift; one that will help to grow and develop into strong connections of understanding and respect. As many have said, the most valuable asset in any organization is their people, so shouldn’t we give them as much, if not more, time and energy as we allocate to our spreadsheets and stats? Take five minutes today and listen to another individual. Build that relationship and make people feel welcome and appreciated.