If you think listening is becoming a lost and faded skill, you might be right. In today’s fast paced world we’ve adapted to the speed of information by half listening (if we’re lucky) and remembering if less of what we’ve heard.
While this might be fine at a party or social event but if you want to support or feel supported, listening must take center stage. And one needs to listen with all their senses – and their eyes, ears and mind wide open!
When we listen, we need to not only remember what someone says, but to make meaning from it.
So how do you put your whole self in to the listening act, how do you get the whole picture or message from what someone is saying? You get it by what people are telling you, not only verbally, but what they communicate non-verbally when they’re saying it.
Consider the following questions:
- What does their body language look like?
- Are they making eye contact?
- Are they gesturing, or walking around?
- What about facial expressions?
- Are they doodling on a piece of paper or playing with their hair?
Putting all these answer and observations you begin to get the full picture. Yes, this is more challenging if we cannot see the person but where sight is limited, we can kick up our other senses our ears and mind – to listen to what is being said and unsaid, the choice of words for perspective insight, the tone, volume and even breathing pattern of the one speaking – can inform our ability to really actively hear a person.
How do we make sure we understand the message from the viewpoint of the person speaking and not our own interpretation?
Here are some tips:
- Paraphrase: You might say: ‘So it sounds like _______.’ ‘What I’m hearing is __________’, ‘If I understand correctly___________’
- Reflect the feeling of the other person: You might say, ‘It sounds like you’ve been dealing with this problem for so long that you wonder if there’s really a fix for it.’
- Focus: ‘If you can tell me what you need in one of two words, what would that be?’
- Summarize: Clarify the salient points of the conversation to make sure you’re both on the same page. It will lay the groundwork for subsequent conversations.
- Notice how the use of questions keeps the focus off you and on them.
- Focus entirely on the needs of others and allow them the ‘space’ to open up to a non-judgmental listener.