My mother once said to me, “God gave us two ears and one mouth and we need to use them in that ratio.” Perhaps by that statement you will know that I am a “talker”! However, to be a good friend, good parent and good marriage partner, listening is essential for a deep relationship.
Listen to the words people say, the tone used and also observe body language. Be “quick to listen” – “evaluate” – then, and only then, if you really have a contribution – “slow to speak”.
Good listeners aren’t born, they’re trained! So to improve your listening skills here are a few suggestions:
1) Listen to understand the other person’s point of view without judgment. Feel their feelings as this makes people feel valued. Listen with your heart not just your head. Good listening is hearing what they actually think, mean or feel, not what you imagine they do. Instead of assuming you ‘get it’, ask, ‘Do you mean…’? ‘Are you feeling…’? In other words, – check what you think you hear.
2) By accepting their perceptions and feelings as valid, you are valuing them as a person. ‘By what I understand, I can see why you’d feel the way you feel.’ Real listening increases their trust in you and, therefore, their willingness to reveal their true heart.
3) Interrupting can steer the conversation out on a tangent of no relevance. People can feel you are not really interested when you change the subject.
4) (Proverbs 18:13). ‘He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him’. This means “Listen without judging”. Rushing to conclusions can cause you to reach the wrong conclusion! In the beginning of a conversation, things may not seem congruent. Keep listening, as hearing more may reveal the other pieces of the puzzle. Inserting your belief paradigms halfway through the topic stops genuine communication.
5) Ask the person if they have possible solutions to the challenges being discussed rather than you jumping in and offering all the answers. When people learn how to solve their own issues by seeing things from outside of themselves, you have helped them to discover their own answers are already within them. Remember the old adage: “You can give a man a fish and you feed him once, but if you teach him to fish you have fed him for a lifetime”.
6) Don’t give advice if you don’t have authority to express your opinion. Remember it is only your opinion. Telling people what to do can backfire, then they will blame you. Let any solutions be their own solutions.
7) It has been said ‘what you think of me is none of my business’. Someone else’s opinion of us does not have to be our reality. We can all choose our own attitudes, reactions and responses.
Risking getting outside of our comfort zone can be scary, but if we stay there we don’t live. When we live from the inside out, we live our truth. Faith to be strong requires strong belief foundations.
We are responsible for how we choose to live our life. I love to ask myself “Who am I ‘being’ right now?” Listening to another and asking clarifying questions can help them identify their values and feelings. It helps them choose to be proud of who they choose to be and how they will react or respond. And you have developed an even better relationship with the person.
It is a win/win. The other person feels heard, and you have gained a richer relationship by listening.