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Updated: Jan 21, 2023

The art of listening in relationships and beyond

Everybody talks too much. What's worse, they tweet, they post. Everybody has an opinion and a need to express that opinion. I have often wondered: where does that need come from? Why do we think our opinion is so vital to other people business?

How often do you find yourself thinking about what to say before the other person is finished talking? How about talking over the other person?

So, what if we actually listened. Not pretend-listening but active listening.

True communication (not messaging or tweeting) involves two parties:

The person sharing the ideas, feelings, stories and the one receiving that information.  The recipient of the information, and as the word suggest, is supposed to be a receptacle for that information to be contained.

It is often easier to talk than to listen. When we don't listen, we don't participate in true communication. When we don't listen:

  • We show a lack of empathy. You cannot "learn" the other person. You will not be able to see similarities or connections.

  • We show a lack of respect. You are showing that you know better than they do and have no time for their experience.

  • We show we don't care. We do not appreciate the other party's effort or experience. We are disconnected.

  • We show that we are fearful. We'd rather not know what others have to say because others' ideas may be dangerous.

Remember that fear is the stone upon which censorship is built.

What is active listening?

Active listening is the practice of preparing to listen, observing what verbal and non-verbal messages are being sent, and then providing appropriate feedback for the sake of showing attentiveness to the message being presented. This form of listening conveys a mutual understanding between speaker and listener. (X)

“There is a difference between truly listening and waiting for your turn to talk.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson.

So, how can you become a better listener? First, try to engage in an in-person conversation. Communicating over email, messages or tweeter does not serve as a substitute and in fact, will likely make the interaction confusing. Once you are there, in person: (X)

  1. Be attentive, look at the other person. Nod, smile, demonstrate your engagement. Do not glance at or check your phone!

  2. Be okay with uncomfortable silences. Don't rush to fill the void. Let the other person finish.

  3. Paraphrase as a way of making sure you are getting what he or she is trying to convey. Ask questions to clarify.

  4. If you want, share a similar experience.

There are times when you want to listen and have the best intentions in doing so, but yet, you get distracted by other thoughts. A good way to train your brain to stay in the moment is to ground yourself by objectively observing and describing what is going on in your head. You may redirect your attention by simply noting you are distracted and getting back to business. The more you practice active listening skills, the easier it gets.

At the end of the interaction, be grateful. This other person chose to engage and share with you. Take it as is. Perhaps you were barely able to agree to disagree but even then, it was an experience and a learning moment.

So, if you find yourself the recipient of a Z Form, brush up on your listening skills and get ready to listen. You are about to take part in the lost art of true human connection!

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