When someone is really listening to us, we feel drawn to that person and willing to open our hearts. Listening is one of the most important skills we need to build meaningful relationship. But what does it mean to be a good listener?
We’ve all been taught to make eye contact, not interrupt and not get distracted by TV, phones or other gadgets (and half of the time we still forget). But it takes more than that. I invite you to dive deeper into your conversations and use the following qualities of a good listener.
Be present for the other person and listen to what they’re saying without judgement. Don’t try to guess what’s going to follow next, keep an open mind and allow the conversation to unfold.
Focus on the other person
We often process the conversation through our own stories. This may be how we relate to other people’s experiences, but it can be annoying when we always respond with ‘Me, too’ or ‘I have a better story’. If someone shares their achievements with you, acknowledge them and be happy for them (even if you have done better). If they’re expressing a concern, give them the space to voice it without immediately sharing a similar challenge that you may have had or advice they may not want to hear.
Another easy trap to fall into is thinking about what you’re going to say in response. I do this a lot. As an introvert, I need some time to think before I speak. I often panic that the other person will finish talking and I’ll have nothing to say, so I start composing my response in my head while they speak. But if that’s what you’re doing, you’re not truly focusing on them, but on yourself, and you may be missing out on important cues and information. With practice, I learned that there’s nothing wrong with pausing for a few seconds to think before responding. In fact, the person you’re talking to appreciates it a lot more.
Show that you care by having open body language and eye contact. Asking good question will send the message that not only you’ve heard and understood what has been said so far, but you’re willing to go deeper. And don’t change the subject!
No one is a perfect listener all the time, but we can all get better with practice. There will be times when you get distracted – gently bring yourself back to the conversation and admit that you’ve missed something, or acknowledge that this may not be the best time for you to have that conversation and schedule a different time. People will appreciate your honesty much more than a pretend smile and non-committal remarks.
Image by Mark Sebastian via Flickr.com