The importance of listening
Dating Lesson – The Importance of Listening
Did you play the childhood game called “Chinese Whispers”? Listening is one of the most powerful social skills in our possession, and despite early lessons (or games) on its importance, mastering it can take a lifetime. The game teaches us that we don’t listen very well and as a result the message one person receives can be very different to what someone else communicates. It’s all about effective listening but that is hard work and not something to be taken for granted. In life generally, and particularly when we’re developing friendships we need to be paying this skill great attention.
Listening is Your Greatest Tool
If you can’t listen well, then you are walking down a dead end road. Listening is a skill and quality that you’ll rarely see on a someone else’s criteria for a soul mate but it is crucial for everyone. In this article we will look at the 4 Steps To Become a Better Listener by explaining:
- What Listening Entails
- What Happens When You Listen
- Four Powerful Steps to Better Listening
What Listening Entails
A few days ago I was meeting with an individual for an appointment. We were talking and at the crux of our conversation this person picked up their smartphone and began texting. When I said I would wait, they responded with “Oh don’t worry I’m listening to you, and while you’re talking, I’m also texting my friend back.”
In a fast-paced world, many people feel compelled to multitask, and some may even feel bored without the distraction of more than one activity (ever watched TV and used your phone?). When we say that we are listening, it should be the sole focus of our attention. When it comes to listening, ask yourself: “Is it possible to be a good friend without listening? No. Then am I listening so I can be a great friend?” Furthermore, the act of listening isn’t just about one person; it’s about two or more people. Listening well gives complete attention and shows respect for your conversation partner.
What Happens When You Listen?
When anyone listens properly to someone else, it is about more than eye contact and comprehension. I bet you already know someone who is a great listener. In my case, this person is a business leader that is usually silent for the first part of each meeting, choosing only to speak when everyone else’s thoughts have been aired. He always chooses to listen first and then speak second.
People who choose to listen to those around them are making a conscious choice to learn at a deeper level. What do we learn? We discover what is happening in the minds of our friends, and what they’re thinking at a deeper level.
Four Powerful Steps to Better Listening
Power Step 1: Show You Care
It sounds easy – show you care, right? “Caring” means different things to different people, but in terms of listening, it means keeping the attention on the speaker and not interrupting.
The majority of my work is spent listening to people and then helping them solve their life challenges. The last thing they need from me is to show a lack of concern for them by turning the focus away from them. In these situations, remind yourself: “It’s not about you.” Listening should be about the individual you are present with.
As you listen and demonstrate that you care, they will open up more and become a closer friend than perhaps you’d first envisaged. Why is this? Your choice to care declares to them that you’re worth being friends with.
When you’ve been rudely interrupted and how did it feel? Not good. Essentially, it shows that the interrupter is already thinking about the next thing they are going to say, which means they haven’t been listening to you. The same element occurs when we do it to everyone else. If you want to become a greater listener and sharpen your listening skills, then don’t interrupt the flow of the conversation.
Power Step 2: Ask Questions
Questions are crucial to aiding clarification and keeping a conversation moving in a good direction. They indicate my level of understanding and engagement with my conversation partner. However, it’s not always easy to ask the right questions, so I use a few concepts to help in tough spots.
At a pause in the conversation, the first step is to process what the individual is saying to at the moment. What else do you need to know to understand what they are saying? Use follow up questions:
- For clarification: “Let me make sure I understand you. You mean _____, right?”
- For more depth: “Tell me more about that” or “What/How/Describe/Define….”
Avoid simple “yes and no” questions, as this doesn’t elicit much more information.
Asking great questions goes well beyond being quiet, processing, and giving someone your full attention. It requires you to be aware of their external signs such as body language, facial expressions, mood, and behavior. The first step is simply to sit down with your key friends, make the decision to listen to them and ask more questions.
Power Step 3: Recognize the Investment of Others
Everyone around us contributes, whether we agree that it is valuable or not. With that in mind, is can be easy to overlook the investments that they have made. Believe it or not, this is a fundamental benefit of listening well. As we listen to those speaking to us, we will gather relevant knowledge of them as a person.
It’s important to understand that even if we don’t see any worth in the conversation, we must extend recognition for their investment. When we acknowledge their investments of ideas, actions, feelings, time, energy, and results, they become empowered. Empowerment then creates the result you want. Everyone wins in this scenario. The next step is to interact with your friends in a way that acknowledges their emotions and feelings.
Listening not only means asking great questions, but it also means encourage people to elaborate on what they’re telling you. This is the type of interaction that we all want. It can be as simple as asking them in a genuine way to expand on the subject from their viewpoint. When you choose to invest in your friends to this degree, they will know that you are giving them attention, demonstrating that you desire to learn from them,
Power Step #4: Create A Listening Assessment.
By now we realize that if we want to be people who develop really effective relationships, we know that by surrendering ourselves to listening to others, positive change can happen. We’ve established that we should never be too busy to listen. So how do we apply all of these Power Steps? The first place to begin is to create a listening assessment.
Creating a listening assessment for yourself to take an honest look at how you communicate with those around you. Let’s begin. We must always start by asking ourselves the following questions:
- Am I open to actively seeking feedback and insight from those around me?
- Am I defensive when others criticize me or do I listen for the truth in their statements?
- Do I do most of the talking?
- Am I asking great questions in every conversation?
It’s a good start, but often it’s hard to objective about our actions. The assessment can also be given to a few people (ideally with different communication styles) to assess you as well. A listening assessment wouldn’t be complete if you weren’t also listening to someone else’s feedback!
Think of it this way. We have the power every day to add value to someone’s world if we are willing to listen. The next step helps to create accountability to stop dismissing someone because of their job or interests when we should be listening. At the end of your day take ten minutes to reflect on your conversations. Calculate out how much time you spent listening, then how much time you spent talking.
How much information did you retain within the day? Once you have completed an entire week, add everything up and see what your results are. Now that you have done this, it’s time to set a goal to increase your listening percentage and decrease your talking percentage. As you continue through this assessment be sure to take inventory of a few important strengths that you should be building.
First, connecting. You cannot connect with other people when all you do is talk. Pace yourself. Stop, make eye contact, be fully present at the moment and watch your connection build.
Second, innovation. The only way innovation happens is when we seek out new ideas. Those fresh ideas will come from you listening to your friends and hearing what they’re saying. Learning to take their suggestions to heart will breed an atmosphere of innovation.
Third, confidence. The more you listen, ask great questions, and invest in your friends the more easily your confidence will increase.
The overall theme that we can take away from this is that it’s impossible to be an amazing friend without being a great communicator. Yes, there are plenty of other elements of friendship to focus on, but let’s not be fooled into neglecting the most important one…listening. We cannot forget that “being heard” is listening. One of the best compliments you can receive as a friend is to be known as an incredible listener. Do you want to increase your friendship toolbox? Then work on applying each one of these power steps on a consistent basis.