The Art of Listening
Do you find it a challenge to listen sometimes?
Being an effective listener is such a great life skill to have, as it naturally builds rapport and warmth with people. How well you listen to others can have a major impact on the quality of your relationships with others. The thing about listening though, is that it is way easier to listen intently and respond with kindness when you have your feet up and you're in a relaxed state. It's a little harder when you're stressed, in the middle of a task or your mind is elsewhere! What we do know about effective listening is that it requires us to be 'present' - totally focused on what the speaker is saying. With so many distractions around us, it can be easy to be distracted, especially when you're at work. I'm not just talking about external distractions, but also the internal chatter going on in your own head.
If you're open to becoming a better listener, here are some ideas to think about... Stop Talking! When someone else is talking, actually listen to what they are saying without speaking. Do not have the next thing you want to respond with ready to blurt out. (I am guilty of this and I am so aware when I do it!) 'Do not interrupt' falls into this category too! The great thing about this is, when they do stop talking they usually want to hear your response and that's your time to talk! Ensure the speaker knows you are listening Stop what you are doing and look at the person speaking. I get a lot of interruptions in my office at work with people striding in and wanting to talk to me at that very moment. Because 'adult talk time' in teaching is so limited, it is important to prioritise it, so it usually has to happen at that time. Sometimes it takes me all my will to take my eyes off my computer screen, look at the person and focus on what they are saying. I know how important it is to be heard and I see that as an important part of my role at work. Acknowledge what the speaker is saying Nods and facial expressions work really well here! You want the person you are listening to, to know that they are being heard and have your full attention. Paraphrase This is a simple technique that summarises what they have said. For example, "So what I'm hearing you say is ...." This reiterates that in fact you have heard what they have said (you haven't been thinking about what you're having for dinner that night!) Ooops! Guilty of that sometimes too! Empathise with genuineness Let the speaker know you understand what they are saying. If you've been in their shoes you can easily tap into that place of complete understanding and respond with warmth and compassion. Do Not Hijack! Be careful not to hijack the conversation with your story - this can feel very discounting. We all know people that do that and if you're like me, you probably think twice now before sharing anything personal with them as you question whether or not it is going to be valued. Being a good listener does not mean you have to listen to everyone all of the time! Some people really do like the sound of their own voices - at some point you need to stay true to your own values and close the conversation down with kindness & respect! I have discovered that generally speaking, when people come to you for personal advice they don't really want to know what you think, they just want to off load. They already know deep within themselves what they need to do. With work related issues, it is important to respond, but practice waiting until they have given you the whole story first (the readers digest version hopefully!) Effective listening is a real skill. Observe and hear yourself this week when you are listening to someone. What could you improve on?