“We have two ears and one mouth. This is so we can listen twice as much as we speak.” –Aboriginal Wisdom
Ahh communication. When we hear the word communication, the first word that usually comes to mind is ‘talking’. But that’s only the half of it. The other half is listening and that part often gets forgotten.
And believe it or not, being a good listener is often more crucial to being an excellent communicator than talking. Most people can talk relatively well, but very few actually listen well.
If you really want to stand out, you need to learn how to really listen.
The thing is, many of us think we are good listeners, but the truth is most of us aren’t so good at all.
It’s not our faults though – last time I checked, “Learn How To Listen Properly” was not a course offered in elementary school, high school OR even in undergrad.
It’s not unless you decide you actually want to become a professional listener by going to grad school to become a therapist that you can even access courses specifically tailored to this topic.
But the funny thing is, listening is such an important piece in both in making both our professional and personal relationships successful.
Poor listening skills often contribute to why many people may not be as far in their careers as they were hoping to be, and also don’t have the blissful, connected, and harmonious relationships they were hoping for.
Some, however, are better listeners by nature, and some of have taken it upon themselves to learn to become better listeners, and some would like to be better, but are not just sure how.
Believe it or not, being a good and effective listener is not always as instinctive as you might think (which is probably why so many aren’t so good at it). It typically takes knowledge and practice.
And that said, here are 5 things you can start doing right now in order to ensure those who are doing the talking are genuinely feeling that you are doing the listening. Try to use them in this order.
1. Pay Attention.
First and foremost, you’ll need to actually stop what you’re doing and look at the person who is talking (Obviously Julia. But you might be surprised with how often we are only half listening and half checking our email, Facebook, Instagram, stock prices… whatever).
In order to actually pay attention to what the person is trying to communicate, we need to actually stop whatever else we’re doing and pay attention.
You might think you can really listen to someone while being actively engaged in some other activity, but you can’t.
2. Use Minimal Encouragers.
These are things like “mm hmmm” or “okay” or “oh” or simply a head nod. I personally really like using and receiving minimal encouragers.
I find these one most affirming when I’m giving a talk or presentation and there are a few people in the audience nodding their heads and uttering an “mm hmm” from time to time. It really makes me feel like the people I am talking to are right with me.
3. Paraphrase what they are saying.
This one’s easy, but not intuitive. It’s simply saying back to the person what they’ve just said to you. You can use their exact words, or you can tell them what you heard in your own words.
The simplest way to do this is to start the sentence with “I hear you saying….” Easy, right? And you’ll be surprised at how far this one goes in showing the other person you really listening to what they’re saying.
4. Check In With the Feeling.
Given what they are telling you, this one is just stating what you think they might have been feeling if they are telling you a story about something that happened to them in the past, or what they are feeling right now if they are talking about something happening between you.
You can say something like: “I imagine that must have been really hurtful for you!” or “It sounds like that was a really frustrating conversation.” Or “I hear you saying you’re feeling pretty disappointed with me right now.” Or “It seems like you felt really loved by your partner when they took the time to genuinely listen to what you were telling them.”
5. Ask Questions.
Instead of jumping in with your own similar experience (which is not actually listening – it’s just waiting for them to stop talking so you can start), keep your attention focused on what they are saying instead of thinking about what you want to say.
Ask questions to get them to elaborate and give you more detail. This shows the person you are interested and want to understand more about them and what they are telling you.
And that’s it! Although pretty simple and straight forward, unless you know, how would you know this is what you need to do to be a great listener?
If you decide you want to do these on a regular basis I will almost guarantee your partner, children, coworkers and boss will both like and appreciate you more.