The art of listening

Last week I was sitting with a group of people in a coffee shop, 6 people to be precise. I was quietly watching the scene and smiled on the inside, wondering what each and everyone would remember from this half an hour we spent together in the morning. Why was I wondering? Well, what I was observing was that everyone was sort of chatting along and hardly anyone was listening. I watched the searching eyes to find someone who would listen but no one really did. Everyone was just so busy with talking about whatever they were taking about and had no interest at all in listening to what someone else might have to say.

I have observed similar encounters before and every time I asked myself, what has happened that people don’t seem to be able to listen to each other anymore. Topped by the facht that if a person is not talking, instead of listening they might check their phone, SMS, email of FB or…. Is it really that people are becoming more and more self centred? Is it that more and more people constantly feel the urge to present themselves, often pretending whatever it might be they are pretending just to make sure they are heard or seen. But are they? I don’t think so.

This in my opinion creates an ever growing problem in our lives on a daily basis. Parents not listening to their children and therefor missing vital information which might give them clues as to what their kids are up to. Partners not listening to each other when needs and wants are expressed and eventually realising that they just don’t get what they need in a relationship anymore and ending it. Or we think we already know what our partner is about to say or respond and we act on that rather than listening what they really have to say to us. A form of belittling that can have devastating consequences in relationships.

And in the workplace? I reckon that profitability and effectiveness in workplace environments are taking a big toll because of not listening effectively to each other, being too busy with themselves and overhearing that vital reach out that could make their working life so much easier.

Do you know what you are missing out on by not listening actively? Compassionately? Without assumptions and open and curious to what your opposite wants to tell you? How often have you heard this sentence: I told you but you obviously weren’t listening….. And instead of replying “no you didn’t” as many of us do it is much more effective to admit that you might not have and hopefully get another chance and a learning for the future.

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.

Here are some tips on how you can improve your listening skills and benefit from it not only by creating better relationships but also understanding more of what is happening around you:

  1. Decide if you are in a position of being able to listen to someone. If you are in the middle of doing something else you will not want to listen and it is important to let the other person know. Kindly offer them a more suitable time to talk and make sure you really listen to them then.
  2. Let the other person finish what they have to say instead of cutting them off assuming you know.
  3. Repeat back what you have understood from what has been said in order to make sure that you are really hearing what has been said before jumping into an answer or conclusions.
  4. Look the other person into the eyes when you are communicating (and listening is part of communicating) so they know, that you are listening and present.
  5. Watch what might be said nonverbally. Gestures, body language, tonality etc. often don’t match up with what is being said. We don’t only listen with our ears but also our eyes. And again, it is not about making assumptions but feed back to your communication partner what you observe and give them a chance to be more open towards you.

Effective communication is one of the most challenging skills in our modern times. If you can improve your listening skills you will automatically be a better communicator and certainly see improvements in all of your relationships, be it family, friends or work. And if you want some help on improving your communication skills feel free to contact me

Enjoy listening, thanks for reading

Barbara

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