Our capacity to really pay attention to our loved ones is one of the most loving and compassionate gestures we can share. Have people in this techno-crazed age lost their capacity to really listen? No, but paying attention and listening to our loved ones no longer comes naturally to many of us. It takes practice in a society filled with more distractions than we have ever had with all our little devices giving us information overload compounded with more and more clever marketing strategies. Communication is extremely important; but, how can we turn off the distractions and tune into what matters; to be here and now with our loved ones?
I will share what I know and what I have discovered. Listening… GENUINE listening is a wonderful and rare gift of time. The act of paying attention helps build relationships, solve problems, ensure understanding, resolve conflicts, and improve accuracy. “At work, effective listening means fewer errors and less wasted time. At home, it helps develop resourceful, self-reliant kids who can solve their own problems. Listening builds friendships and careers. It saves money and marriages,” expresses Dianne Schilling.
First and foremost, I have found that we need to remember to engage in only ONE thing at a time; one person at a time. When a person is talking, we must learn to focus and pay attention to what he or she is saying; we must learn to be mindful of the present instead of planning on what we will say next.
Here are 10 ways to help develop our ability to really listen and pay attention. Some of these tips are common sense, yet many of us forget to utilize them.
- Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Don’t scan the room, study a computer screen, or gaze out the window.
- Be attentive, but relaxed. Let go of any nervous energy or feelings of haste. You don’t need to stare at the other person.
- Keep an open mind. Listen without judgment.
- Listen to the words and try to visualize what is being expressed by the speaker. Allow your mind to create a mental image of the information being stated.
- Don’t interrupt and don’t impose advice or a solution. An array of messages are conveyed when we interrupt like: we are more important than them; what we have to say is more relevant, accurate, or interesting; we don’t care or have time for your opinion; etc. More often than not, a speakers don’t want a solution, they just need to be heard; and, they usually want to figure a solution for themselves.
- Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions. And, only ask questions to ensure understanding.
- It is okay to redirect the speaker to the point of the conversation. It happens. We are distractible creatures.
- Try to empathize with the speaker. Allow your facial expressions to convey these feelings because this is reassures our speaker that we are listening.
- Give the speaker regular feedback. This can be done by rephrasing what our speaker has said; or, we can simply nod and give a well-timed “uh-huh.”
- Pay attention to what is NOT said, the nonverbal cues. We can detect so much from body language, facial expression, as well as to what is actually being said. Nonverbal cues are important to a conversation and should be valued.
Bonus tip: Summarize. When we summarize in a statement the information that was conveyed to us by a loved one or a colleague, we are saying back to them that they are valued, they are important, they are respected, they are loved, and we understood what they said to us. Listening is a gesture of love.
For more in depth information on effective listening go to forbes.com
All rights reserved. ©2018 by A. K. Orobko