A dear friend of mine has a very special daughter. Let's call her "Alice".
Alice has a wide-eyed curiosity about the world and constantly asks questions. And boy do I mean "constantly". But, different from other kids her age she waits for the answer and then mulls it over before giving you her opinion and/or response. The first few times I saw her do this I was amazed, so I commented to her that I liked her thoughtfulness. Her immediate response was "If you listen, you will understand"
Wow - Talk about out of the mouths of babes. It lead me to thinking about listening. Are we doing it right?
lis-ten-ing n: the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or nonverbal messages
How many of us feel like we are really listened to – that people really get what we are saying? Most people do not feel like they are heard. As Alice said, when having a conversation - Just listen. That in itself is powerful.
Listening is more than just hearing until the other person has stopped talking so we can share our thoughts with them. Active listening involves MUCH more than just talking! To be effective in your communication you must master the skill of “active listening.” To listen is to “tune in” to what is not being said, how it is said, and what feelings or emotions may or may not be expressed.
Most of us think we listen, yet we do not always “attend” to the person who is speaking to us. We are too busy doing other things. Or even thinking about things while others are talking to us! How many times do you catch yourself holding onto judgments, opinions, or even beliefs about someone or something that is being said – while they are talking! Sometimes we forget to “live in the present moment.” Active listening is about being in the present to “tune in” every moment that is necessary.
The following skills, when practiced, will improve your listening skills and your relationships with others.
Remain silent when someone speaks. (Easy to say, hard to do.) Give the speaker your complete attention. Avoid distracting behaviors or interruptions.
Perception checking is about feelings more than words. The focus is on checking what you perceive to be the emotion that motivates the other person's communication. What have they conveyed by their tone of voice, what did they really mean to say, and is the emotion genuine? The rest is just “noise or fog” clouding the truth. Active listening is about listening to the truth, to what is honest and real. We have two ears and one mouth so we should be able to listen twice as much as we talk.
Be empathetic and non judgmental.
When you value the person you are having a conversation with and accept their feelings you will be able to empathize more, to “hear” more clearly and completely, and to offer them the gift of being heard. Forgo judgments. Just Listen!!
Thanks for reading.
Until next time....
**This post was originally written by Wilma in March 2011
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