Your 10-year-old son walks into your room, head down, a look of sadness contorts his dimpled cheeks. On the computer, you look up briefly, continue tapping the keys, and ask, “What do you need, honey?”
He hesitates to respond.
You know you should stop what you’re doing, but you figure he just wants some cookies or something and is afraid to ask. “What is it?” You ask again.
“Can you take me to school…I don’t want to ride the bus anymore.”
“What? Why?” Your web search continues, mind preoccupied with Spring handbags.
“Nothing,” he mumbles and backs out of the room.
Now, what do you think he needed? Do you think it was more than I ride to school?
Chances are, most of us have had such an experience with our children, spouse, best friend. Those opportunities to truly listen, no, I mean really listen, come all the time. The question is: Do we take advantage of them? I suspect the answer to that is sometimes. Don’t feel badly; it’s a common practice for humans to multitask at the wrong times.
How To Listen…The Right Way
“I hear you, Kellie,” you say. No, hearing is not the only thing that you have to do to call it listening. There is so much more interaction in good communication. For example, try not thinking about what you’re going to say while the other person is talking. Uh huh…not so easy now, is it? And, what about making some eye contact while you’re at it. It’s getting harder…
Giving your full attention, body, soul, and spirit to another takes practice. Frankly, they should be teaching this in elementary school instead of making it an adult class at the community college that no one ever takes. Listening is the key to learning, growing, experiencing true connection with others. Without it we can’t be everything that we’re supposed to be. What does listening to other people have to do with being me? Good question. Well, it has everything to do with it.
Not truly listening to another’s contribution is like going to the Louvre blindfolded. That’s right…why would you do that when there is so many beautiful, amazing things to see? You wouldn’t. So why would you want to miss all the beautiful, amazing things that someone might say to you. A snippet of wisdom, a hilarious joke, an angry comment that tells you they’re hurting and they need you.
Practice Makes Perfect
Here are a few tips to help you improve your listening skills.
1. Always give the other person or speaker your full attention. Turn off the TV, iPod, computer, and let them know you are theirs until they are done.
2. Make eye contact. You can “hear what they’re not saying” by seeing into their heart.
3. Watch their body language. Are they agitated or calm? Are they angry or sad?
4. If you know the person well, reassure them by touching their hand or shoulder. Hint: Some people respond well to touch and put more trust in the person who connects in this way. Be careful that you don’t cross a boundary here though.
5. Clarify what you believe you’ve heard by repeating it. Example: “I hear you saying that you are uncomfortable with riding the bus because of how you are being treated by the other kids.” This let’s them know that they are communicating effectively and that you understand.
6. Don’t interrupt them while they are talking. I know this is hard for some people, including me. I’m a talker who wants to be heard. If you have to bite your tongue, do it. I have. Wait for the appropriate time to respond.
7. Don’t work out your dissertation while they are speaking. Yeah, they might want to hear it after they’re done, but maybe not. Some people, especially women, don’t always want you to fix their problem with your advice, they just want someone to listen and validate there feelings. Give your opinion and advice if asked.
Practice these listening skills every time you get the chance. You might want to start with a recording or the television. See how much more of the information you retain when you focus completely. When you activate all of these listening tips with a live person, you will be thrilled at the results. Your relationships will improve, and you will be more satisfied as a communicator.
What is your favorite part about communicating with others? Are you a good listener? Who do you know who always makes you feel listened to? Share it all, WLL fans! Be well-be beautiful.
Photo by Quistography