Listening Skills. How to be a good listener.

What does it mean to you to feel heard? How do you experience yourself when you are in the company of someone you feel heard by?

We are bursting at the seams with content, advice, quotes from “wise” people. Many are speaking, few are listening. And of those listening, even less know how to do so without jumping to offering advice. Can we let go of being “helpful” and trust that our friends will always ask for advice when they want it? We all need more acceptance than we need improvement.

Practicing purposeful listening deepens and strengthens communication and relationships. Developing your listening skills can create real connection.

Practical steps you can consider for improving your listening skills:

  • Do your bet to surrender all agendas, expectations and obligations while you’re engaged in listening.
  • Remember communication can happen in many different ways. Someone may be saying a lot just through their body language. Engage all your senses as you listen.
  • To listen successfully it is important to avoid expressing  any judgement (positive or negative) when being engaged in listening to someone. Judgement, praise, personal opinion on a matter can create a disconnection. You have stopped listening, connecting, understanding and hearing emphatically when you have begun judging and deciding the goodness or the badness of something.
  • Good listening involves providing a safe compassionate space. In order to offer someone this kind of space you must first create it within.  Inner space is the ability to experience different thoughts and emotions without reacting to them or being overtaken by them. Creating inner space is a practice. It’s like cleaning your house. You can’t do it once and it last you the rest of your life. It’s learning to notice your thoughts but not engage with your thoughts. In order to lovingly hear another you must be willing to listen to your own voice first. The same goes for emotions. Don’t get wrapped up in your own emotions about what is being shared. Consider showing up as a witness.
  • Successful listening is when the person that spoke felt heard. Repeat back to your friend or loved one what you heard them say. Ask questions is something was unclear. Practice this with a friend. Ask them to share anything with you for one minute. Listen compassionately and then repeat what you heard them say. Ask them if what you heard was right.
  • If you’re not sure whether your friend is looking for your advice, perspective or opinion or whether they only want to vent then ASK THEM what would be most helpful to them.
  • Recognize when you are not in a space to listen and reschedule: There are times when we experience our own thoughts and emotions to be quite loud. When you are in such a space and a friend wishes to be heard, it is perfectly ok to tell them the truth and offer your time on a different day. You may say: “What you have to say is important and I want to offer you the time, energy and attention you deserve. At this moment however I am not able to offer you my undivided attention. Can you share your thoughts with me tomorrow?

Additional Resources: Here’s an interesting article about why misunderstandings happen.