Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"What was that?" Listening skills.

From "Family"--here are some really important keys to making sure you really hear what your loved ones (or anyone you interact with really) are telling you.

"One of the most important skills that you need in any and all of these relationships is listening. Better listening skills will allow you to create a more harmonious relationship where respect and cooperation are more likely to occur.
How well do I really listen to others? How well do I listen to myself? Can I be still and quiet enough to really listen? Or do I feel restless when there is silence and so I start talking right away?

Here are some tips on developing better listening skills.
  • Listen with concern and a desire to understand. Do not pretend to be listening or give only part of your attention if you are distracted. If you need and it is possible, ask the person to wait until you can be more attentive.

  • Let the other person talk without interrupting. Avoid quickly giving advice interrupting or making assumptions as to what you think they are going to say. Pause and breathe staying present and silent until he/she is finished.

  • Do not prepare your answer while they are talking. Try to stay only in the listening mode. Once you have all the information you will be more prepared to respond.

  • Do not engage in selective listening. Listen to the words, facts and overall content of the person's story. Do not just pay attention to what you find interesting.

  • While you are listening observe their facial expressions, gestures, eye movement and body posture.This will give you information as to what they might be feeling about their conversation, more information to help you understand.
The second part of the skill is learning to reflect back what you heard the person saying. Paraphrasing and repeating back what you heard allows the person to know you have been listening. It keeps clarity in conversation and allows for overall better communication. This is also a skill that requires some practice. Here are a few tips.
  • Try to briefly summarize what you heard them say and repeat it back to them.

  • Ask them if this is what they were trying to tell you. If not, try again to summarize or ask them to repeat part of what you did not understand.

  • Do not immediately respond with your belief, opinion or advice before you have clarified their position. Only give advice if they are asking for it.

  • Use empathy in your response instead of being judgmental. Be neutral and clarify what you heard their feelings, thoughts or opinions to be. Do not yell, argue or criticize. Ask more questions. Try asking why, when, where or who questions. This gives you more information.

  • Determine what they need from you. Would they like you just to listen and say nothing, give feedback, provide advice, help them problem solve a situation? Of course, if you are talking to young children, you may have to interrupt this yourself and offer what your intuition feels they need.
Make a note of the new interaction and compare it with your old way of listening or not listening. Observe their manner- are they calmer, more appreciative? What do you notice?

We all have a need to be listened to and understood."