When was the last time you felt really listened to? Can you think of a time when somebody sat down with you and gave you their undivided, respectful attention? Do you know the feeling of being encouraged to go deeper, to tap into your own knowing in the presence of another?
Do you know what it’s like to have a listener who assumes you know the answers even if, at the moment, you’re confused and uncertain? Imagine a listener who treads gently and patiently, keeping you company as you find your own answers. Believe it or not, a good listener can help you get in touch with your own wisdom.
Good Listeners Are Rare
You’re probably familiar with listeners who can’t wait to interrupt you with their own tales. They’re just waiting for you to pause so they can jump in with their own clever remarks.Then there are “listeners” who rush in to give you good advice. “No, no,” you want to say, “I don’t want your advice. I just want you to listen.” Good listeners are hard to find.
What are the Qualities of a Skilled Listener?
So what makes an effective listener? Skilled listeners know how to set aside their own concerns while they listen to you. They set aside everything they know about your subject and everything that’s going on in their own lives. Their goal is to know, as much as is humanly possible, what it’s like to be another person. Good listeners help you connect with your own wisdom and with your own solutions to problems. They stay with you while you figure things out and listen with an attitude of humility. They believe it’s an honor to be let into your inner process.
5 Guidelines for Effective Listening
Believe it or not, if you stick with the person you’re listening to she’ll probably come up with her own answers. What are the guidelines for being a great listener?
Set aside all your own mental busyness and all your knowledge about the subject at hand. Even if you’re an expert on the subject, just listen closely. It would be presumptuous to give advice or “know” what needs to happen.
Reflect on the Emotional Side of the Conversation
Reflect back some of her words, especially emotional words. People tend to rush by the emotional parts of their story. This is usually where the gold lies.
Slow Down and Truly Understand
Slow the person down. Say, “Could you just go back to… “or “Help me understand ….” Don’t rush.
Seek for Clarity and Understanding
Don’t give the impression that the person needs to satisfy your curiosity. The goal is to help them to clarify their own understanding.
Accept Lack of Perfection in the Exchange
Don’t worry if you say something wrong. The other person will correct you and the process itself is self-correcting. Hearing something back helps the person get clearer on how it really is, whether you say it exactly right or not.
This model for listening comes out of focusing and is called Experiential Listening. It takes practice. If the idea interests you, perhaps you could find a friend who’d like to practice this way of listening with you. Then you’ll both have someone to listen to you.
What are your experiences with listening and being listened to? Join the conversation and let others know your thoughts about listening.