The Art of Listening
Talking is sharing, listening is caring
Mr. and Mrs. know it all:
Oh boy, here comes “You Know Who” (I’ll let you fill in the blank) with their inexhaustible supply of advice. Doesn’t matter whether you want to hear what they have to say or not, you’re going to hear it. The latest gossip? They have it. The reason the home town team is no good? Just ask them. No need to watch the evening news, they’re a live broadcast unto themselves. To the “You Know Who’s” of the world, nothing is more important than what they have to say. No question we have enough of them. Half of them are on TV, the other half wish they were on TV. So do we, at least then we could turn them off. Unfortunately, know it all’s are not what we need when we want to get something off our chest, or we’re going through a rough time. What we need on those occasions is a good listener. Problem is, good listeners are hard to find.
Good listeners never interrupt you in the middle of a sentence, they maintain eye contact when you’re talking to them and they never try and change the subject on you, or one-up you with big news of their own. They know when to ask questions, and when to shut up. They understand you’re not asking them to solve your problem, just listen while you vent about it. In other words, they pay attention to what you have to say. Paying attention is not just listening waiting for a chance to break in and say what’s on your mind. It’s giving your undivided attention to the one who is speaking to you. It’s more than listening, it’s deep listening. You’re paying attention to what they have to say tells them they matter, that you care.
Your emotional response is critical in any situation but especially during a conversation. How you respond is important. If you’re listening, really listening, how much you care will show up in your facial expressions, your body language, and every sigh you do or do not make. There is a big difference in listening to people and hearing them, and people know the difference. We all need to know we matter and when we intently listen to what others have to say, we answer that question without uttering a word.
A major recommendation:
It’s much easier to be engaged in a conversation when we focus our attention on the other person’s good qualities instead of trying to find something wrong with them. After all, we all have things wrong with us. Start pointing that out to people and you’ll have them running in the opposite direction. Asking myself what I like about this person is a lot better than asking myself what I don’t like about them. When I think positively, I see the good in others and everyone has some good in them. If we keep our mouth shut, and our mind open we can learn something from everybody. Staying focused on what I like about a person has taught me a lot of things I otherwise would have never known. I highly recommend it.
The one thing you want to stay away from is trying to change someone else. Focus on yourself. Let your example do the talking for you. If people want your advice they’ll ask for it. Total acceptance, although rare, is important in any relationship, especially close ones. Too many people get married with the idea they’ll turn their spouse into who they want them to be. When that happens both parties usually end up miserable. Don’t monkey around with people, accept them for who they are or don’t accept them at all.
Whenever I find myself caught up in a conversation I never intended to get myself involved in, or any conversation for that matter, I have one word I say to myself, autopilot. That one word brings the finer points of listening (below) into focus. I’ve memorized those finer points of listening and connected them to my keyword for the sake of convenience. When I say that keyword to myself my subconscious mind automatically brings those finer points to the forefront of my brain. Go over the finer points of listening until you know them backward and forward. It’s not as hard as you think. Attach a keyword to them, I use autopilot, pick the one you like. Keywords are not for everyone if you don’t think you need one skip that part and just memorize the list. I’ve found keywords helpful when it comes to remembering a lot of different things. It’s my mental filing system. Make sure you never forget how important the person you’re talking to is. To them, they’re the most important person in the world. If you’re a good listener you’ll be the second most important person in the world. At least to them. Becoming a good listener is money in the bank. Extremely valuable. Never forget, no matter what business you’re in, you’re in the people business and people love a good listener. Don’t you?
- Make eye contact with the speaker
- Listen attentively. Not paying attention is an indication of a closed mind.
- Don’t interrupt. If they want your opinion, they’ll ask for it.
- Keep your emotions in check. There is a difference between hearing people and listening to them.
- Don’t one-up them. If they are talking about a recent accomplishment they’ve made, don’t one-up them with one of your own.
- Ask questions when the speaker indicates it’s time for you to do so. Believe me, you’ll know when.
- Make the other person feel important and you’ll become important to them.
Talking is sharing, listening is caring.
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