Knowing How to Listen is the Key to Success
Listening is an art that most people have not mastered. This is true because we live in a hurried world where instant gratification has become the norm. We want fast food, fast cars, fast computers, fast answers and fast solutions. Surprisingly, it is quite easy to be a good listener if you take the time and can change your life personally and professionally. We need to learn to listen to our bodies, our families, our friends and our coworkers – even our neighbors and strangers.
Everyone wants to be heard. People love to be listened to. Some of our best health improvements and emotional healing begin when we feel like someone is listening to us with an open heart. It gives us the opportunity to speak our truth and to connect with other people. Our stress levels even reduce when we feel truly listened to.
So are you a good listener or just a good talker? The best relationships thrive when two people listen to each other with genuine love and interest. And we are not just talking about romantic relationships either! EVERY relationship benefits when we all have the opportunity to speak freely and without interruption or judgement. Most of us tend to self-criticize enough on our own. People are drawn to those who really listen to them.
What constitutes good listening?
- Focus your attention 100% on the other person (friend, spouse, relative, children, client.) Do not let your mind wander to another person, task or obligation.
- Don’t think about what you want to say or should say. Your presence and full attention are more important.
- Ask questions instead of imparting advice. Do not redirect the conversation to yourself. Try to avoid “why” questions as it can cause some people to go on the defensive, especially if they are really confused about what is going on in their life at the moment. Ask questions, such as “What do you think would happen if you…?” or “When do you feel that way?” or “How will doing “x” make you feel?”
- If they stop speaking, don’t feel compelled to speak right away. Hesitate before you respond or ask a question to give them time to reflect on their thoughts. Moments of silence let them know you hear them and that you value what they have to say.
- Listen to their worries, beliefs, and goals.
- Pay attention to their body language and tone of voice.
- Repeat what you heard to make sure you understand what they have communicated to you.
- Trust your intuition and remain empathetic. If you feel a hug is warranted or a touch to the shoulder, give it to show your compassion or support. If the other person seems to be distancing themselves physically, give a warm smile and break eye contact to allow them to regain their comfort.
- When the moment is right, offer constructive feedback or suggestions on how the other person might make positive changes or get closer to making a decision with which they are struggling. Don’t overwhelm them with more than three to five suggestions. They will need time to absorb what you are saying, especially if their situation is stressful or life-changing.
- Be sure to let the other person know you appreciate their willingness to talk to you. This opens the door to a deeper trust and lets the person know you are there for them.
Practice active listening
The above suggestions are part of what is referred to as “active listening.” The more you practice, the better you become at it. Being a good listener empowers you and lets others know you care about what they have to say.
Ways to practice might include the following
Start a conversation with clerks and salespeople when you shop, doormen, delivery drivers, police officers, cleaning professionals at your office, your neighbors, and even people on the phone such as customer service agents who help you with a myriad of services. You’d be surprised how few people even bother to ask how their day is going or to smile at them and wish them well.
Need someone to listen to YOU?
Hire a life coach. They have the skills and the passion to help others find solutions to everything from how to make a decision to how to eliminate anxiety to how to create healthy habits.