Let’s face it, that is much easier said than done. Especially in this hasty, digital age where we constantly click, fast forward, and swipe to find the next best thing.
Thus, when having a real conversation, it’s hard to truly listen. It takes a lot of effort and self-control… to not go mind-wandering or plainly interrupt the other.
How many times has someone said to you: ‘Will you just listen for one minute!’ We’ve all heard it 100 times.
When we don’t listen… we’ve just forgotten how much we need to be heard ourselves.
Therefore, listen carefully to my 3 tips if you want to become an even better listener.
Tip number 1: Don’t be presumptive
You come home, 7 pm, after a long day in the office and your spouse says: ‘You’re late again! You should work less!’
Before you know it, you are misinterpreting it into ‘I should relax more.’
So, the next day you come home at 8pm instead of 7pm, all sweaty.
‘You are even later than yesterday!’, says your partner astonished.
‘huh? You wanted me to work less! So I went for a run after work.’, you reply.
‘No, I meant… I would like you to come home earlier, so we can spend some time together!’
To avoid misunderstandings and irritation, it’s best to check if your presumptions are correct… by asking the right questions:
- What do you mean exactly?
- Why are you agitated?
- What do you expect from me?
Be careful that it is not an interrogation. Use the right intonation to make sure you sound genuine and not condescending when you ask these questions.
This leads to the tip number 2:
Tip number 2: Don’t be a thief, be a midwife
Most people are only open to hearing what they are interested in themselves. They steal information, and as soon as they have the info they were looking for… they’re gone.
This is a recipe for disaster. You have to listen like a midwife is helping deliver a baby. She’s there to serve the mother… and adjusts to her needs accordingly.
So, make time to listen to others… as if you were their midwife.
This brings me to the third and final tip.
Tip number 3: Be empathetic.
One of our most profound needs is to be recognized. We don’t necessarily want others to agree with our point of view, but we do crave some empathy.
Unfortunately… again… we are often falling short.
When someone vents: ‘Oh, I’m so tired of these online meetings. I feel so irrelevant!’ We sometimes feel the urge to minimalize their problem: ‘Don’t exaggerate! It can’t be that bad!’
or we give unsolicited advice: ‘Clean out your mailbox in the meantime…’
or we make it about us: ‘I had no less than 4 online meetings yesterday!’
What do you think happens?
The other feels frustrated, of course. He doesn’t feel heard.
So how can you be empathetic? Show the person what you think he or she feels thinks or wants. You can do this by asking genuine questions for example: ‘Are you fed up with online meetings because you don’t feel involved? Would you like to be taken into account more?’
If you give empathy, ask the right questions… and make time to listen you give the other a priceless gift that feels as refreshing as a glass of cold water on a steaming hot summer day.
Just know that we need 3 years to learn how to speak, but we do have a lifetime to learn how to listen!