How to Be An Effective Listener
Here’s what destroys effective communication – the desire to speak first and give our opinion and point of view, rather than to sincerely understand and listen deeply to the other person.
Take this scenario – you’ve visited a far away, exotic location and you want to obviously share your experiences and delights. And what happens when you do begin to share those experiences? Most likely the person or people you’re sharing your experiences with are desperately itching to tell you their exotic holiday experiences without fully hearing your account. They’re already preparing to speak before you’ve finished speaking.
Why does that happen? Why does someone want to albeit unknowingly disrespect the relationship with another person by making their experiences be the topic of conversation, what could be the reason?
There could in fact, be multiple reasons for it – not getting enough attention earlier on in life so wants to ensure they get it now, wanting to show authority, wanting to feel important, wanting to be liked, wanting to get the last word in.
Self-importance is alive and kicking. And it’s the reason it effectively kills deep sincere communication between people.
That said however, probably the most important reason why we strive to be understood first rather than to listen and understand another person and their opinions and points of views – is because the majority of us have simply not been trained in the art of being an effective listener. We’ve not practiced it in any long term, significant or meaningful way.
For many, we learn to listen from our own internal framework in how we see and experience the world. And as such, our listening generally consists of evaluating, questioning, advising and interpreting. We generally transplant on others, how we see the world and how we personally evaluate, question, advise and interpret a given situation.
However, none of the above is designed to truly listen to, and gain a deep understanding of, another person.
Effective listening is a skill.
And to get better at any skill, it must be practiced. Yet, this valuable skill isn’t taught in schools. It isn’t generally part of a family’s curriculum or tradition. It isn’t something that’s integrated into the workplace – apart from perhaps a stipulated training course all are compelled to attend – or – in many institutions, such training is positioned as being – “… an optional course to attend if you think it will help you”.
What steps can you take today to become an effective listener?
L Listen with the intention of truly and sincerely wanting to come from the heart and mind of the other person. Another way to say that is to walk in the other person’s shoes; because only then can you truly empathise with another human being, to see the world as they see it (intellectually and emotionally) and not as you are from your own perspective, filters and paradigms.
W When you listen to another person, don’t listen with the goal of wanting to rush and reply with the way you see things, don’t listen with the goal of impatiently wanting to reply, not letting the other person finish what they’re saying, trying to complete their sentences for them – listen with the intention of wanting to diagnose without judging, to truly want to know what other person wants to share or talk about without giving any answers by way of what you believe the right prescription is.
When in a conversation, don’t simply nod your head or use words to say you understand, go deeper into the process – rephrase the content of the conversation back to the person you’re speaking to, reflect the feelings that are being felt and expressed, get acknowledgement that how you see their situation and perspective, is totally accurate. And if some areas aren’t as you see it from their perspective, rephrase and then get feedback from the person you’re communicating to that how you see the situation is as accurate as if they were describing the situation to themselves.
Being an effective communicator (by practicing the skills of being an effective listener) will bring profitable results in all areas of life – both personal and professional.
To help you gain a deeper practical understanding in how to be an effective listener, please refer to Steven Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and practice the habit of – Seek First To Understand, Then Be Understood.
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