Most people believe that being a good speaker is a wonderful talent to have – and it is. However, even a good speaker gets frustrated if they feel no one is listening to them. Similarly, being a good listener also takes a special skill – and a willingness to hear what someone else is saying. To communicate well in any type of relationship someone has to listen while the other person is talking.
Undoubtedly you have experienced disappointment (and perhaps even annoyance) when trying to talk to a spouse about a tough day at work and their eyes glaze over, or discuss a sensitive issue with a friend while she’s rooting through her purse for her phone.
On the other hand, think of someone you enjoy talking to; someone who makes you feel good about yourself, and seems to genuinely care about what you have to say. Someone you know you can trust with your feelings or concerns, and who won’t pay you “lip service” without any real conviction. Are you that kind of listener?
Of course, being a good listener doesn’t always come easily. It takes practice and the occasional biting of your tongue. If you would like to master the art of being a good listener so that you can truly hear what your spouse, children, family, or friends are saying, follow some of these simple techniques to improve communications:
Make eye contact.
In order to be a good listener, establishing eye contact with the person who is speaking to you is essential. This – along with body language – indicates you are interested in hearing what they have to say and encourage them to talk more openly. Eye contact also helps you to pick up non-verbal cues from the speaker. According to a survey done by Get In Front Communications, 55 percent of the meaning in our words is derived from facial expressions, 38 percent is in how the words are said, and 7 percent from the actual words spoken.
Don’t get distracted.
You may find yourself sidetracked by a number of things that can cause you to lose the thread of the conversation. However, to be a good listener, you need to try and eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn off the television or phone. If you’re in a public place, find a quiet area to sit and chat so you can give your full attention to the discussion.
Try not to interrupt.
While it’s necessary to remain engaged in the conversation and show your interest, it’s equally important to not interrupt the flow. For example, if the person is describing a scenario, don’t jump in and say, “Oh yeah, that happened to me and I handled it this way…” That’s not really helpful because the person has not finished telling their story. And, they may not be asking for advice – they just want someone to listen to them.
The exception to this tip is if the discussion has turned into a one-sided monologue with no end in sight. At that point, it’s okay to interrupt by saying something like, “Let me see if I understand….” Or, “What I hear you saying is…”
Don’t be confrontational.
You don’t have to agree with what the other person is saying. Likewise, you don’t want to make them feel defensive. Instead, ask reflective questions that may cause them to rethink their position. For example, “If given the opportunity, how would you handle that differently?” Or, “What do you think a good alternative would be?”
To be a good listener, you need to do more than just hear; you must have a conscious desire to grasp what the other person is saying. Keep in mind that people like to be around someone who listens well including your spouse, children, friends and family. Likewise, if you need someone to listen to you, or if a loved one needs help communicating, contact Dr. Susan Daniel to make an appointment at your earliest convenience.