My journey to learning the art of good listening started when I got married. I knew I wasn’t good at it and everyone always told me that communication is key in a relationship so I decided to polish up on my skills. I took course after course, read books and many taught the same concepts, but it was easier said than done. I would go out into the real world and think I had mastered the art of listening, but would still get confused or even get into arguments with loved ones and friends. You see; listening is an art form that one has to continuously work on. It’s like going to the gym or eating healthy; you have to do it repeatedly to achieve your goals. You have to learn new methods and ways to listen so that you don’t break the cycle and ensure that you continue your good habits. If you think you are a good listener, ask around and find out what others think. We tend to grade ourselves better than others in these instances. Here are four tips on what not to do when listening.
- Stop Assuming
Day in and day out we communicate with the same people over and over—our spouses, families, coworkers and even the same hairdresser. Because we speak with these people so often, we unconsciously create a preconceived notion of the message they are going to try to communicate to us. This is a huge mistake. Do not think you already know what someone is going to say or better yet—what they “mean.” I am sure you have heard a friend complain that their spouse or loved one said one thing but really meant another. Listen openly and authentically and that way you will actually hear the other person’s message.
- Don’t Use Your Feelings to Defend
When a person comes to speak to us, they often will tell us how they are feeling or how we made them feel. In defense, we tell them our side to assert our importance to the conversation. Remember one important thing: You have the ability to impact someone’s future feelings, but the ones they have at this moment are there and will go away when they decide; not when you do.
- Ask Questions
When talking with someone either in a heated discussion or just during the course of a friendly conversation, make sure to ask questions and repeat what they said so that you fully understand what they are trying to convey. Don’t assume you know, and worse, don’t tell them what they are trying to get across. Ask questions so that both parties can come to an agreement that fits their needs.
- Take a Moment
In the heat of the moment people are known to say things they will regret. So when listening, pause and really soak in what is being said. Concentrate on how it makes you feel and how your response might make this a better or worse situation. If it makes it better then go for it, if not; maybe ask the person for some time to come back with an answer. We all want to be heard and this way the other person knows you are taking their comments seriously and want to do the best to listen and resolve whatever the situation is.
My journey into listening still continues because every person I meet communicates differently, but the goal of mastering my listening skills still stands. I may not reach full mastery, but what’s important is that we work to improve on ourselves daily. Take this opportunity to listen to others, but most importantly, don’t forget to listen to yourself.