Unless you are hearing impaired, you know how to listen. You don’t even have to think about it. When you hear things, you are listening.
But listening isn’t just listening. It’s a muscle you can train, just like any other ability. There are few things as simple, yet impactful, as good listening. Your mental and physical health depends on being able to express your feelings. You can’t express your feelings if no one is there to listen. To feel heard, someone has to be there listening to you. It’s not what they say, but their quality of attention that makes you feel heard. By giving someone your undivided attention, you act as a mirror to their emotions.
So much depends on being a good listener. A good friend is a good listener. A good boss is a good listener. A good therapist is a good listener. A good parent is a good listener. A good _____ is a good listener. Being a good listener sets the foundation for good relationship building with everyone.
Listening also makes a better speaker. That’s because you’re responding directly to your circumstances. You’re not speaking from a script in your head. If you’ve ever experienced a teacher or public speaker who speaks freely and is connected to the audience, compared to one who reads from their notes, you know what difference this makes. The former inspires and engages you, the latter puts you to sleep.
One thing should be noted… being a good listener does not mean you should be a therapist to everyone that comes to talk to you. It just means that if you have two seconds available, you give those two seconds your fullest attention. You’re not supposed to stand there endlessly listening to everyone and their grandma. If you need to go, say that. But be there when you say it. Make every encounter a good listening encounter, regardless of how long it lasts.
Being a good listener is easy, but it may take a little practice. Here are ten things to remember:
- Make Eye Contact
- Be present – Quality of attention matters!
- Give no sign you are ready to respond
- Wait two seconds to respond
- Let them go first
- Care about what’s being said
- Listen for the message within the message
- Don’t change the subject
- Respond by going deeper
- Don’t start a side conversation
When you start implementing some or all of these reminders, you notice improvements in your relationship immediately. Your relationships deepen, as does your relationship to the world around you. There is a stronger sense of trust, a certain ease with which you start navigating life. Things come to you more naturally. You are more connected to situations as they happen, so you know how to respond with clear action.
In your responses to others, be sure to come from an inclusive space. Begin by welcoming and thanking them for their effort of speaking with you. Thank you for checking in with me. Next, you want to affirm their intentions. That’s a great question. Also, always want to reinforce unity, in everything you say. Use words like we and let’s.
When providing feedback, always make it sound like you’re giving recommendations, not orders. Even when you’re their boss. It’s not about rank, it’s about bringing out the best in others. Using words like consider, perhaps, and explore goes a long way in encouraging and empowering people to think for themselves, which only makes everyone stronger.
Lastly, you always want to encourage future actions. Conclude your reply with a statement of positive forward momentum, such as great work overall, keep it up, or you’re on the right path.
Following these simple steps ensures that you connect with the people around you at a deeper, more meaningful level. More meaning also means more opportunity for self-discovery for everyone involved. And self-realization is what it’s all about.
How strong is your listening muscle?