“Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” –Mark Twain
Every Good Conversation Starts With Good Old Listening
We live in the fast-paced age of communication in which words fly about like myriads of fluttering butterflies with no goal or final destination. We post on social media, release videos on YouTube; we voice our thoughts on thousands of subjects hoping that someone will listen.
Being heard is an inherent human need; being heard means someone cares, someone is willing to sit down and absorb what you have to express. The response may come in the form of words, a hug or just a smile, but in the end what matters is that someone showed up and listened.
But with our constant coming and going we barely find time to tune in and lend a listening ear. We forget that listening is paramount to maintain healthy and meaningful relationships, be it with our co-workers, parents, spouse or children.
The question is, how does one become a better listener? How can we muffle the noise of daily distractions and simply tune in?
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Be present at the moment
Distractions have become a part of our daily routine. Whether you are at school, at work or just making dinner, your phone goes off probably at least once every thirty minutes. But being present in the moment and truly listening when someone is trying to talk to you takes determination, dedication, and the willingness to say no to whatever else is going on around you.
Make sure to maintain eye contact and do not be distracted by the new post on Facebook; it will still be there after the conversation is over. Furthermore, paying attention will allow you to ask follow-up questions or give an appropriate response, which in turn will make the speaker feel appreciated as opposed to ignored.
Sometimes, however, all you need to do is listen without asking any questions. Try not to interrupt to voice your opinion about a subject if there is no need for it.
In other words, be selfless and let the speaker finish their thoughts. If you sense that they are hoping for a response, act accordingly, but always remember not to cut in.
Be honest and open
A good listener makes himself available, meaning that he is open to receive new information and spend a certain amount of time carrying out the simple act of listening. Depending on your schedule, however, do not be hesitant to let the other party know about your time limitations. Honesty is an important attribute that shows sincerity and respect towards others. Letting the speaker know how much time you can dedicate to them indicates that you care and appreciate them.
And last but not least, make sure you get the message. A good listener will always respond honestly and summarize what he or she heard the speaker say. Candid summarization also means making room for clarification if needed.
Simply put, there might be times when you may misunderstand the message, or the speaker may fail to be clear or precise enough. That is when you step in with your summary.
It would be safe to say that it is also the key to good communication. So, make sure not to underestimate the power of this simple, seemingly passive act, as it is an integral part of any relationship.