by Mark and Jan Yokers
In our last article, we described frequent scenarios where listening is not occurring. Now we want to unpack how true listening can occur. Before we begin, we want to reiterate that listening is not easy or even natural for many of us to do. Listening is hard work. One has to stop building their own response to what is said and engage with the speaker to find out all that is in their heart and emotions concerning what they are sharing. You may think that if you do that, the other person will never stop talking. But you may find that they repeat themselves endlessly because they do not feel they are being heard in what they are saying. Whereas, when you truly listen, and they feel heard, they may not feel the need
to “go on and on .” When the speaker feels heard and understood, the relationship grows and matures. Appreciation and respect grows between you. The other feels understood,
and we have gathered a greater understanding of who they are. What a wonderful place to be in!
To truly listen, you must choose to increase your self-awareness and stay with the speaker’s experience. Ask the speaker to relate their issue in short sentences, and then have them pause so you can repeat what you have heard. e.g., “What I heard you say was…” or, “What I understand you are saying is…”. Then, ask the speaker to affirm or correct what you understood they were saying. If they correct what you understood, then repeat it back, including the updated information.
On an important or contentious topic, it is best if the listener takes notes in order to remember what has been shared and truly grow in understanding; taking notes slows down and helps regulate the conversation. Even if you disagree, you can express understanding of their feelings and thank them for sharing. Be watchful of your body language, voice tone, and facial expressions. As a listener, it’s not about you right now. It’s all about them, their feelings, and their experience.
Sound easy? It’s not. Here are some things to avoid:
- Your goal is not to fix the other person or even to problem-solve. Yup, you’re there to listen!
- Your goal is to gain understanding rather than to react.
- Your goal is not to judge the feelings or ideas of the speaker or to assess them as right or wrong. You may not agree with or understand their feelings or behaviors. That’s okay.
- Your goal is to get into the heart and mind of the speaker so that you see things through their eyes. How amazing is that?
We have shared before in previous articles how each of us has love-style injuries from our childhood. In the next article, we will give you a template of questions for the listener to ask the speaker in order to come to a fuller understanding of where the speaker is really coming from and what past influences may be affecting the present.
Are you ready to become a better listener? We’ll give you more tools next time. Have hope!