Has someone said this to you before? Think back to that conversation or the last one you just had with someone. As you were listening to them talk, how much of your own brain was formulating your response, thinking about something else, or actually really listening to what the person is telling you?
Before all this personal development, I can honestly tell you… that majority of my time, it was probably in this order: 1) figuring out if I agree or disagree, 2) thinking about how I’m going to respond back, especially if I disagreed or have a tangential story to share, and 3) distracted by all these other random thoughts in my head or something that’s happening in the background behind the person. Oops… head down in shame That doesn’t really count as “listening”, eh? Now I know I was fooling myself by thinking that I was being the good listener I thought I was.
When it comes to listening, these are the major things I’m practicing…
- Active or generous listening. This is the type of listening which you are actually paying attention to everything the person is saying. No stray thoughts. No strategizing your responses. No cutting them off. You’re being generous with your time and letting them freely express themselves and complete their thoughts. Have you had a conversation with someone who just keeps cutting you off? How do you feel when that happens? How does it feel when someone lets you talk until you got your complete thoughts out? Feels nice, right?
- Be neutral when you’re actively listening. If you start attaching feelings and judgment to what they’re saying, you’ll start formulating responses in your head and you stop listening. You’d just get antsy, waiting for them to stop talking, so you can blurt out what you think instead. When you’re neutral, you have more of the capacity to actually hear what they are trying to tell to you. Being neutral also put you in a more patient and open mindset, too.
- Be curious or fascinated about what they’re saying. When you’re curious, you lean in more into the conversation. You want to know more. You’re less likely to get distracted with other thoughts because you become much more engaged in what they’re saying. After listening to what they’ve said, ask questions based on what you’ve heard, then actively listen again. This also helps someone feel heard and understood, which is what we all want to feel, right? If we expect this of others, we should do it ourselves first.
But… here are the exceptions:
- Conversations are a two-way street. There’s a flow—a back and forth. If one person is dominating the conversation, that’s a soliloquy—the ramblings of one person who doesn’t know when to stop talking about something or themselves. You can be actively listening to them…to a point. You have to set your boundaries and declare that you are a part of the conversation than just a mannequin sitting there quietly.
- If it’s a long stream of complaints and criticism, pass on it. Note if they say all that, but continuously not do anything about their complaints. You don’t need to be immersing yourself in that pool of negativity. Remember to protect your mental space!
- Be genuine. Don’t fake it. If you’re not interested in having a conversation about something or not in the mood to socialize at all, tell them straight up. Forcing yourself to sit through a conversation isn’t good for you either. This goes back to setting clear boundaries again.
Communication is a crucial part of human relationships. Listening is just as important as the talking. If you can’t listen and communicate well, misunderstandings and conflicts become your norm. You can’t change how someone else communicates with you, but you can change how you react to what they say and how you communicate with them. Use how people respond to you as a gauge and feedback system of your communication skills. If they’re not responding to you in the same way you expected them to be, start taking notice as to why. Awareness is always the first step!
Start practicing active listening and see how your communication skills start to change. Love to hear about your experience. Share it in the comments below or in the Facebook group. Cheers!