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Are you listening?

August 31, 2011

Are you listening?... for real?

listening

"There are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves."Albert Guinon

I love this quote, because it is very true, most people are much better at talking than at listening, most of us have an innate need for approval, support, understanding, etc., and we often express it by talking. However, there is an imbalance between these needs and their fulfillment, because true listening is a rare skill. True listening is a great gift.

Some of the most common mistakes we make when "listening" to others are:

  • Assuming we know what the other person is about to say or what they mean
  • Formulating what we think we should say in reply
  • Pretending to listen but thinking about other things entirely
  • Not looking at the person's eyes, and missing their body language
  • Interrupting to tell our own story
  • Multitasking while we "listen", like watching TV or checking our phone

Do you recognize yourself in any of these? I think we all do to some extent.

Becoming a good listener, aside from being a gift for those around you, is also a great source of benefits for yourself. For one thing, you will be appreciated and respected, you will learn in a deeper, more profound way, and you will be able to better understand and accept people around you.

Some of the things you can do to improve your listening skills are, for instance:

Looking into the other person's eyes as much as you can, this doesn't only show respect to the other person, it tells them you are engaged, and it will help you pick up details that are not being said and can contribute greatly to the accuracy of the message.

Be quiet while they talk, suppress the urge to interrupt

Do not judge, just listen

Ask yourself what is the other person really trying to say? Are you processing their words properly and reading between the silences?

Watch the person's body language (face, eyes and body) for it often communicates more accurately than their words

Focus on what you are listening to, rather than formulating what you think you should say in reply

Do not multitask while you listen to another person

One of my favorite statements by Larry Barker says that: "Effective listeners remember that: words have no meaning - people have meaning. The assignment of meaning to a term is an internal process; meaning comes from inside us." This is why, paying attention to the PERSON is almost as important as paying attention to their words.

Remember also that to achieve effective listening, not only you need to be quiet, but you need to quiet your mind. It takes courage and determination to change our ways, but we can try to become better listeners every day by applying the suggestions above, maybe one at a time, little by little...it is worth the effort!

"Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening ... when you'd have preferred to talk." — D.J. Kaufman

"It is the province of knowledge to speak And it is the privilege of wisdom to listen." — Oliver Wendell Holmes

Remember, you can give yourself and others the gift of listening!

Have a great week!

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