Being a good listener is more important than ever in our fast paced world. With text messages, emails, Facebook and other social media we may be making random comments about our activities but is anyone truly listening and caring about what we are saying? Do we feel more valued by the numbers of ‘Friends’ we have on Facebook?
Showing you care about someone involves learning the art and skill of authentic listening. It requires taking the time to hear, process, ask questions, and paraphrase back what the person said to us to make sure we heard not what they said but what they truly meant. When we repeat back to them what they said and ask them ‘is that what you meant,’ they usually use different words to clarify what they actually meant in their heart. Due to our own individual life experiences words mean different things to different people. Clarifying helps us avoid jumping to conclusions or misinterpreting the message.
Developing good listening skills means we stop interrupting, talking over or faster than the other person, answering for others rather than giving them the time to respond, or controlling the conversations. For instance, if four people are present each should continually be given an equal amount of time to speak and be heard. Everyone then feels important and valued. You may be able to see an answer to another person’s dilemma but unless they ASK you for advice it is best not to give it. No one wants to be treated like a child, told what to do or not to do. This type of behavior builds up impenetrable walls of resentment towards you and eventually the valuable relationship can come to a screeching halt.
The greatest gift I received from a dear friend years ago when I called to tell her about a life changing experience I was dealing with was her masterful response. She simply said to me, ‘how do you feel about that?’ She allowed me to talk, she listened with her head and heart as I processed through the circumstance. She asked clarifying questions but never told me what I should or shouldn’t do. It was clear that she valued and trusted me enough to work through the concern and arrive at the answer that would work best for me. She was an authentic listener.
Ask yourself, what does it feel like when someone truly listens to you? Don’t you want to give that same gift of appreciation and acceptance to others? You can if you eliminate your own ‘advice giving’ habit and work at developing authentic listing skills. It boils down to a couple simple facts, you don’t walk in their shoes and you don’t help them by telling them what to do.
Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, said ‘nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.’ Brilliant!
Have a great few days!
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