There is a good reason that we have one mouth and two ears. The body seems to be telling us that listening twice as much as talking is a good idea.
Now, sure, I’m making that up, but it is a very wise conclusion just the same. Even if folks listened as much as they talked, that would be a very good thing! When folks come to me for relationship help, we work on the essential art of listening!
Now, listening. That’s very different from hearing. Hearing just means the sound waves made it to your ear and were registered. It is only when we engage the brain with the ears that listening actually occurs.
You know that is true because you hear a lot of things every day that you don’t listen to. I had a client in today who told me that he can read a book, with total engagement, focus and comprehension, while his wife is watching TV and his kids are playing video games in the same room. My question for him: can you bring that same focus to listening?
There are many things that get in the way of the art of listening:
- Mentally discounting what someone is saying as s/he speaks
- Not letting the speaker complete an idea
- Filtering out and listening only to selective words
- Picking out the parts you disagree with and jumping on those
- Hearing the first few words someone says, then tuning out to mentally prepare your rebuttal
- Comparing yourself to the speaker…usually in your favor!
- Looking for ways to twist the facts
- Trying hard to change the subject
- Placating or pleasing the speaker, even though you may be blissfully unaware of what they are saying
And, there are more!
Be a good listener!
- Stop talking to give the other person the floor.
- Remove distractions and focus on the speaker. (Yes, that means putting down the paper and turning off the TV. )
- Empathize by trying to relate to the feelings the speaker is expressing, and check to see if you got them right.
- Be patient. Don’t interrupt in mid-sentence or mid-thought.
- Ask questions that will help you understand what the speaker is trying to convey to you…nicely, demonstrating the desire to learn!
- Maintain reasonable eye contact with the speaker.
If you have listened well, you will know what the other person wanted to convey, why it is important to them, and what, if anything, they would like you to do. Only when both people have been listened to–not just heard–can you move a relationship forward effectively. And, mastering the art of listening is a vital ingredient in relationships that are dynamic, engaging and growing. It builds intimacy.
NOTE: If you want to learn about all our on-site and online programs, visit the Optimize Center website. You’ll find the relationship help and skills you know will benefit you and your relationship.